Lots of ranch, very little church

nuclearexplosion3Lots and lots of old-fashioned, independent, pragmatic, go-your-own-way ranch values.

Very little time in a church pew.

No, I am not trying to describe the late Ronald Reagan, although that side of his life might be a good subject to talk about at the moment. It was Reagan, after all, who really hit it off with the Western lady who has, many argue, been running the United States of America for several decades.

We’re talking about Sandra Day O’Connor, of course, and the faith-based earthquake that rocked Washington, D.C., today. Read your share of the breaking news coverage — paying special attention to which social and political groups are sweating the most — and tell me if you can find a more relevant paragraph than the following, taken from a July 4, 2004, Washington Post story by reporter Charles Lane. The story ran with the headline “Courting O’Connor: Why the chief justice isn’t the Chief Justice.”

The ranch O’Connor grew up on was not the kind of place where people took high-minded stands on matters of politics or economics, it seems.

Nor was religious doctrine a major element of the Day family’s life. “It certainly was not as big a feature as it was in many other families,” Alan Day recalled in an interview. Nominal Episcopalians, the Days would sometimes attend the closer Methodist church on the rare occasions when they had time to make the three-hour round trip. In her book, O’Connor described asking D.A. why they did not attend church, and whether he believed in God. D.A.’s answer: “It is an amazing, complex, but orderly universe. And we are only specks in it. There is surely something — a God if you will — who created all of this. And we don’t have to go to church to appreciate it. It is all around us. This is our church.”

Once again, folks, as you tear into the coverage in the days ahead you are going to have to remember that there are many different kinds of conservatives and the press gets along better with some of them than others. Remember that left-right discussion the other day? We are about to hear moral conservatives called “radical conservatives,” even if they are Democrats, and Libertarian conservatives are going to be called “moderates,” even if they are total wingnuts on everything else. There will be no “liberals” anywhere, although there will be religious “progressives” all over the place.

The split inside the soul of the Republican Party is about to be wedged wide open.

The folks at Religion News Service are on the case already. Look for legions of reporters chasing this angle in the days ahead. Here is the crunch section:

The recent Senate fight over lower-level judicial nominees only reinforced how much conservatives want to see an end to “activist judges” whom they accuse of making law, not interpreting it. In many ways, the courts — and especially the Supreme Court — have become ground zero for every issue on the conservatives’ agenda.

Leaders of the Christian right say now is when they expect a return on their investment in re-electing President Bush to a second term. They vowed to hold him to his promise to nominate someone in the mold of conservative Justices Clarence Thomas or Antonin Scalia. “We have full confidence that he will carry out that pledge,” said James Dobson, founder of Colorado Springs, Colo.-based Focus on the Family, who left no hint of wiggle room.

In fact, many conservatives said they were happy to see O’Connor go, pointing to her critical vote in Supreme Court majorities that upheld abortion, decriminalized gay sex and ruled on numerous church-state issues.

What a great time for me to go on vacation up in the North Carolina mountains, where I don’t even have a telephone line! Have fun, friends and neighbors. This is a big one. Is the word “Armageddon” too strong? Watch on the cable-news shouting matches tonight and see how long it takes for that word to surface.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

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  • http://guildedlilies.tripod.com/index.html Steve Nicoloso

    Well… the dance has now begun in earnest and we’ll finally get to see if Bush will lead or fail to do the one (and only) thing many evangelicals, noses firmly pinched, voted to allow him the chance to do.

    Bush’s got nothing to lose. The repubs will almost certainly nominate a pro-Roe candidate in ’08 anyway. How much political will could the dems have? Let’s say Bush nominates nasty anti-Roe justice and 1/3 of his own party refuse to back him. Then he nominates more obscure, but off-the-record anti-Roe justice. Let’s say Senate dems prevent a vote. So he finally nominates a third, even younger and even more obscure and off the record anti-Roe justice. How long can the dems play stare-down with 2nd term Bush? A sizeable middle majority of this country don’t really care that much about Roe anyway. In short, it would seem that is in Bush’s power to do it, but will he? Will he finally lead? I hope so.


  • mrs. b

    just went to Blowing Rock, NC last weekend…a little taste of heaven:)

  • Larry Rasczak

    “Is the word “Armageddon” too strong?”

    YES!! It’s just politics. Nobody is going to die over this. Get some perspective!! Iran getting the bomb…. THAT is serious… this is just politics.

    “Watch on the cable-news shouting matches tonight and see how long it takes for that word to surface.”

    Let’s not and say we did. Sound and fury signifying nothing. Last time I checked no news shows, cable or otherwise, had any input at all in this process. If I wanted to listen to hours of meaningless chatter from overly excited morons I’d go to a Star Trek convention and ask the “Kirk or Picard?” question.

    O’Connor will retire. Bush will look and see if any of his pre-selected Supreme Court nominees are women or not. That is the only drama here, will he replace a woman with another woman? Probably. If the Dems hadn’t stalled his female court picks for 5 years it probably would have been Janice Rogers Brown going up; but I’m sure the White House Staff has someone in mind.

    Lets face it.The Democrats will oppose ANYONE Bush nominates, if only for fund raising purposes. Bush could nominate Howard Dean for the Court and Ted Kennedy would still get up and drunkely mumble a long tirade about how the President’s nominee is going to impose a theocratic state upon us all.

    Since Bush can’t win with the Dems, he will send up someone who is less conservative than Scalia, but still pro-Life. The Republicans DO have control of the Senate, even if they don’t always act like it; so the only drama here is “Can Bush hold all his GOP Senators?”. Given the influence of the Pro-Life movement in the GOP, and the fact they will go to the wall over this one, I think he will. It may be dirty and expensive, but he will.

    Look for much noise, chatter, and pre-staged “drama’. Look for lots of stupidity from people who can’t get real jobs (i.e. protestors), and people who lack meaningful job skills but have good social connections and look good on T.V.(i.e. pundits). Above all look for fundraising stunts. Look for much smoke and mirrors. When the smoke clears look for another pro-life justice on the Supreme court.

    At least we won’t have to hear about Natilie Holloway and the workings of the Aruiban legal system anymore.

  • Stephen A.

    I hope Bush nominates Picard, because he can take Kurk any day of the week. And Kurk is vulnerable on the promescuity issue. And the Democrats will definitely raise that Rigel 7 incident.

    But is Picard pro-life?

  • http://irenicum.blogspot.com Irenicum

    There’s no way it’ll be Picard. He has a French name. And besides, he would probably not even like freedom fries!

  • Fred

    Janeway is pro-life. Jean-Luc is more zen-like, like Solomon – split the baby? Kirk doesn’t give a dang about babies. Women’s work. He’s got all those bad boys to faser away. Damn the torpedos -nominate Kirk!! Or the woodpecker.

  • Larry Rasczak

    Excuse me?

    Bush would nominate Sisko. He’s way more thoughtful, he takes religion seriously but he’s not a Conservative Christian, and he’s a minority. Plus that he’s got strong backing in the Bajorian-American commuity. Picard can’t be nominated because he never get over that whole “I am Locutus” incident where he joined the Borg and killed half of the Starfleet. The Democrats be out in the street screaming “Keep your Nano-probes off my body”, and “Hey, Hey, Ho,Ho, Locutus of Borg has got to Go!” Kirk can’t be nominated because he died aboard Enterprise-B’s test flight.

    Personally I’d rather see him go with Judge Kosh,that daring “Vorlon-American” pick I’ve been hearing rumors about.

  • Mark Coddington

    Saw the Washington Post story on the coming judicial apocalypse today. Looks like that old devil “extraordinary circumstances” is coming back for another round…

  • Stephen A.

    Sisko would be an interesting choice. He is, after all, the emissary – a prophet in a minority religion. I can’t think of any reason why the Conservative Republicans would be against him. They are in the same “shares our values” camp, I’m sure.

    Also plusses: he’s a baseball fan, and he’s proven he can open fire on enemy ships so he’s pro-military, too.

    Not that he’s ever piloted a ship of any great note, but I’d be willing to go down to Quark’s bar and bet that Sen Orrin Hatch is on the short list, too.