Hanna Rosin of The Washington Post has written a fairly good analysis for The Atlantic of religious believers’ role in the 2004 election. The central insight of the essay comes in this remark from Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission: “I’ve got more in common with Pope John Paul II than I do with Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton.”
“There’s a fault line running through American religions,” Land tells Rosin. “And that fault line is running not between denominations but through them.” This will not be news to anyone involved in the moral, political and theological debates of several denominations. Still, it may surprise people who are relatively content with their local church and don’t pay much attention to their denomination’s national profile.
Rosin’s story includes a few false notes. She says that “a coalition of congregations broke off” from the Episcopal Church after it consecrated an openly gay bishop, but the two most visible coalitions, the American Anglican Council and the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes, both remain within the church.
On a humorous note, this is how she describes “freestyle evangelicals”:
They are often married women with children who attend one of those suburban megachurches where the doctrine is traditional but the style is modern. Their morals are conservative but their politics are more heterodox, featuring considerable support for education and the environment.
It will be news to Bill Hybels and hundreds of other pastors of suburban megachurches that “support for education and the environment” both qualify as heterodox politics within their congregations.
On another humorous note, here is how Rosin describes the omnipotence of the evil genius known as George W. Bush:
According to the National Catholic Reporter, last year Bush asked Vatican officials for help enlisting American bishops’ support on conservative issues. He held regular conference calls with Catholic conservatives, and hired Catholics to turn out the vote in their communities. He created an atmosphere that enabled a small group of outspoken leaders — including Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, Archbishop John Myers of Newark, Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis, Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs, and Bishop Paul Loverde of Arlington, Virginia — to make their case that public positions can’t be separated from private faith.
Bush “created the atmosphere” for Catholic bishops to speak to their flocks about moral concerns, such as abortion, that have long been part of Catholic doctrine? Let it be known far and wide: W now bestrides even American Catholicism like a colossus!
And on a final humorous note, I will add this remark to my still rather thin file of Republicans who claim God’s direct support for their party:
After the election the conservative luminary Paul Weyrich issued a letter to evangelicals exulting, “God is indeed a Republican. He must be. His hand helped re-elect a president, with a popular mandate.”