Fear of those who are different than us – especially those who worship differently than we do – is one of the hallmarks of the truly ignorant. If there was ever an issue in a democracy not to get your panties all in a bunch over it would have to be how someone talks to God; what name they call him, what direction they face when they pray, the funny little hats they wear when speaking to him, or even really, really esoteric differences like whether they believe the Indians are actually the lost tribes of Israel or if someone believes in any of this superstitious nonsense in the first place.
It just doesn’t matter – or it shouldn’t anyway. Of course, in America everything eventually comes down to politics anyway. And while clear majorities of Americans want their president to have definite religious views, even larger majorities don’t want a candidate prattling on and on about them. They support a minister’s right to talk about politics but large majorities do not think religious leaders should be in the business of endorsing candidates. In short, American draw a sharp, distinct line between the private practice of religion and what role it should have in politics; that is, as little as possible.
Except for a large segment of the Republican party, stuck as they are in the 17th century where religious tests for office in England were a matter of routine, the question of where someone comes out on their very own Christian-o-Meter seems to matter a great deal. And the deal is, neither God nor any of the Prophets or disciples or apostles or even Jesus Christ himself defines the issues that determine who is a “good Christian” and who gets piled on for being the devil’s disciple.
The job of deciding what issues make you a good Christian candidate go to people like Pat Robertson or James Dobson or any other highly visible, well heeled TV evangelist who arbitrarily can tell Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson, and especially that Mormon apostate Mitt Romney that they are not welcome to sup at the table of the righteous but must beg for scraps and grovel like a dog if they wish any recognition at all.
Now going off as I do here on these “leaders” of the religious right probably has some of the more simpleminded among you believing I am somehow “anti-Christian.” In logic class, we might have simply laughed you out of the room and told you to go home to your mother and come back when you were ready to act and think like an adult. Of course I am not saying anything whatsoever that could be construed as “anti-Christian.” I am however, trying to make a case for kicking the Dobsons, the Robertsons, and their pandering, homophobic, fear mongering clique of insufferably arrogant and self righteous sycophants out of the GOP party hierarchy.
Where they go from there, I could really care less. But to have them determining “litmus test” issues and then actually having the supreme hubris to pass judgement on how well a political candidate adheres to their narrow view of Christian ethics is nothing less than a determination of fealty to one set of religious principles – a “religious test” by any other name.
How many ways is this wrong? How UN-American is this? Evidently, people like Dobson could care less:
I firmly believe that the selection of a president should begin with a recommitment to traditional moral values and beliefs. Those include the sanctity of human life, the institution of marriage, and other inviolable pro-family principles. Only after that determination is made can the acceptability of a nominee be assessed.
The other approach, which I find problematic, is to choose a candidate according to the likelihood of electoral success or failure. Polls donâ€™t measure right and wrong; voting according to the possibility of winning or losing can lead directly to the compromise of oneâ€™s principles. In the present political climate, it could result in the abandonment of cherished beliefs that conservative Christians have promoted and defended for decades. Winning the presidential election is vitally important, but not at the expense of what we hold most dear.
Why must it be all or nothing? Practical, reasonable people support the candidate that best reflects their principles but aren’t dogmatic about it. People give different weight to different issues and their judgement about a candidate is reflected in a host of factors – personality, likability, and purely selfish concerns having to do with personal wealth and issues that directly impact the pocketbook.
But all this goes under the bus when Dobson and his crew start waving the bible around and saying people like Fred Thompson are not Christian:
“Everyone knows heâ€™s conservative and has come out strongly for the things that the pro-family movement stands for,â€ Dobson â€“ considered the most politically powerful evangelical figure in the U.S. â€“ said in a phone call to Dan Gilgoff, senior editor at U.S. News & World Report.
“[But] I donâ€™t think heâ€™s a Christian. At least thatâ€™s my impression.â€
Dobson then issued a “clarification” that was, if anything, more egregiously intolerant than his original remarks about Thompson:
“In his conversation with Mr. Gilgoff, Dr. Dobson was attempting to highlight that to the best of his knowledge, Sen. Thompson hadn’t clearly communicated his religious faith, and many evangelical Christians might find this a barrier to supporting him.
“Dr. Dobson told Mr. Gilgoff he had never met Sen. Thompson and wasn’t certain that his understanding of the former senator’s religious convictions was accurate. Unfortunately, these qualifiers weren’t reported by Mr. Gilgoff. We were, however, pleased to learn from his spokesperson that Sen. Thompson professes to be a believer.
Is one’s support or opposition to Roe v Wade a “religious conviction?” Are we not content with thrusting God into the political fray but must now bring Him into the Courts as well?
It is just as well. Dobson got his comeuppance from Thompson during an interview with Sean Hannity last night:
Host Sean Hannity asked Thompson about Dobson, who has attacked Thompson and made it clear he would not support a Thompson candidacy. “Don’t read too much into the Dobson thing,” Thompson told Hannity, continuing:
A gentleman who has never met me, who has never talked to me, I’ve never talked to him on the phone. I did have one of his aides call me up and kind of apologize, the first time he attacked me and said I wasn’t a Christianâ€¦
I don’t know the gentleman. I do know that I have a lot of people who are of strong faith and are involved in the same organizations that he is in, that I’ve met with, Jeri and I both have met with, and I like to think that we have some strong friendships and support thereâ€¦
Hannity then asked: “Would you want to have a conversation with Dr. Dobson? Do you think that might help?”
I have no idea. I don’t particularly care to have a conversation with him. If he wants to call up and apologize again, that’s ok with me. But I’m not going to dance to anybody’s tune.
Good for Fred. Unfortunately, in the current GOP party structure, not dancing to Dobson’s tune isn’t likely to get you very far. I may be wrong about him, but Thompson seems to me to be just the sort of person we need as President. When he says that he “won’t dance to anybody’s tune,” you get the impression that goes not only for Dobson but other special interests as well. Coupled with his genuine conservative stands on many issues, he is becoming more and more attractive to me every day, although I wouldn’t commit to him yet.
Contrast Thompson’s rhetoric with that of John McCain. Mired in 4th place in most polls, McCain is evidently trying to “Out-Christian” all the other candidates by opining that first he wouldn’t vote for a Muslim for President unless he could be sure of his loyalty to the United States and then topping that idiocy by saying “no thanks” to Mitt Romney by averring (in all seriousness) that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints may not be a Christian sect:
John McCain’s remarks about America being founded in the Constitution as a Christian nation have opened him up to getting a lot more questions about his religion â€” and the religions of other candidates.
At a meeting with the Spartanburg Herald-Journal editorial board, McCain was asked whether Mormons are Christians â€” a serious issue with many evangelicals, and a potential pitfall for Mitt Romney.
“I don’t know. I respect their faith. I’ve never frankly looked at the Mormon religion. I’ve known a lot of Mormons who are wonderful people,” McCain said.
To be fair, McCain went on to say that he didn’t believe Romney’s Mormonism should be held against him. But isn’t that kind of like saying “The fact that my opponent has molested children in the past should have no bearing on this race…?” Magnanimous but a little hypocritical at the same time.
Where all this religiosity in the GOP is leading is as plain as the nose on your face; total, unmitigated defeat. A rout. A bloodbath. Republicans are not going to get 18 million evangelical Christians out to vote for any of the current top tier candidates for President. That’s the number that voted for George Bush in 2004 and arguably supplied his margin of victory over John Kerry. And the difference between 2004 and 2008 is that there will be a sizable chunk of voters who leave the GOP because of this pandering to the religious right and their extremist, narrow, moralistic, issues.
So not only will Republicans see a reduced evangelical vote but if you couple that with people who have abandoned the party in disgust for one reason or another, you have the makings of a truly historic defeat for the GOP.
But don’t worry. If such a defeat were to happen, the Dobsons and their apologists would simply chalk it up to not nominating a candidate who was “pure” enough on those vital issues of gay marriage or some other cultural issue that most Americans place far down their list of priorities. So they will continue to fool themselves into thinking that it doesn’t matter that nobody cares about their issues as long as they are “true to principle.”
Tough to stand on principle when you’re stuck in the political hinterlands and nobody is listening to you.
UPDATE: RIGHT ON CUE
The GOP must have known I was going to highlight their slavish devotion to their evangelical base today.
Nearly 20% of the Republican caucus voted “present” on a resolution commending the country’s attention to the Muslim holiday of Ramadan:
The resolution recognized â€œthe Islamic faith as one of the great religions of the world,â€ rejected â€œhatred, bigotry and violence directed against Muslims, both in the United States and worldwideâ€ and â€œ[commended] Muslims in the United States and across the globe who have privately and publicly rejected interpretations and movements of Islam that justify and encourage hatred, violence and terror.â€
Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) dismissed the resolution as political correctness gone too far.
â€œThis resolution is an example of the degree to which political correctness has captured the political and media elite in this country,â€ Tancredo said. â€œI am not opposed to commending any religion for their faith. The problem is that any attempt to do so for Jews or Christians is immediately condemned as â€˜breachingâ€™ the non-existent line between church and state by the same elite.â€
Of course, the fact that voting for this resolution would have made many of your evangelical supporters upset didn’t have a thing to do with it, eh Tom? Can’t refer to Islam as “one of the world’s great religions” without raising worries that before you know it, there will be a Koran in every Congressman’s office.
Allah has a some prescient thoughts on Dobson and Rudy:
While he was writing this, the archbishop of St. Louis, Raymond Burke, was telling the hometown paper that heâ€™d deny communion to Rudy over his pro-choice stand, a logical extension of the rumblings from the Vatican earlier this year about Catholic politicians whose wall between church and state is a little too high. Burke is no face in the crowd. According to the Post-Dispatch, heâ€™s respected as one of the Churchâ€™s most brilliant legal minds and apparently authored a paper last year arguing that if a wayward Catholic politician had been formally warned not to receive communion, it would be a mortal sin for any priest or eucharistic minister to give it to them.
The more the religious establishment lines up against him, the more Rudy becomes the protest choice for conservatives who think the religious right has too much sway over the party. Iâ€™ve got to admit, for all the grief I give him, Iâ€™m starting to lean towards Rudy myself.
I have numerous other problems with Rudy but his stand on social issues isn’t part of them. What I’ve read from many who have served with him makes me think that a Rudy White House would be a very interesting place indeed. He’s a man who engenders loyalty but also fear – something I’m not sure is a good thing in a president. And then there’s the experience factor. Do we really want to hand the modern presidency off to a man whose highest office achieved was Mayor of a big city?
I don’t know which is why I’m so up in the air about who to support.