How I See Things

Though I have no desire to think anything major for the gospel can be accomplished through our political process, I still follow some of the political wrangling. My attachment, in the end, is ironic, but sometimes I sense there’s a time to weigh in and I want to weigh in today. There’s a recent flap between Lisa Miller at WaPo’s On Faith and David Niose at Psychology Today, and it leads me to a few observations.

Here’s my brief on the discussion first.

Lisa Miller stands up to say that the Democrats, or the leftists, are starting to cry apocalypse now about evangelical intrusions into the American (liberal, or at least one view of liberal) way. All kinds of worrisomeness leads to the wringing of hands and finger pointing. Here are her words and links to the overt claims:

One piece connects Texas Gov. Rick Perry with a previously unknown Christian group called “The New Apostolic Reformation,” whose main objective is to “infiltrate government.” Another highlights whacko-sounding Christian influences on Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. A third cautions readers to be afraid, very afraid, of “dominionists.”

The big fear according to Ms. Miller is “dominionists.” Some are just flat-out convinced the evangelicals want to take over the USA and the world.  So Ms Miller clarifies things: (1) evangelicals by and large don’t want to take over; (2) evangelicals aren’t of one mind; (3) Christian conservatives are not more militant than ever. She’s right, though there are some who simply don’t get it when it comes to public rhetoric in the public forum.

She sits down.

David Niose stands up to say that Ms Miller thinks leftist concerns are overblown and he will have none of it. Thus, he says her “analysis, however, is demonstrably flawed, because it essentially asks us to ignore over three decades of history, to accept as “normal” the fact that major-party presidential contenders conduct themselves in ways that would have been unthinkable a generation ago.”

And this: “As a religion reporter, Miller has become so desensitized to the Religious Right that she has apparently become oblivious to the wrecking ball effect that it has had on American politics.” And then this: “The fact that Miller, responsible for religion coverage for a major national publication, doesn’t seem to understand the big-picture significance of candidates exhibiting religion-based behavior and making religion-based statements that would have gotten them laughed off the political stage not very long ago, is a sign of just how far the Religious Right has dragged America from the realm of reason.”

And more: “What Miller doesn’t acknowledge is that “the left” need not prove that the danger of fundamentalist religion in politics is a potential problem, because the danger has already manifested itself by draining virtually every drop of reason from American public policy discussions and moving the entire center of gravity far to the right. The American political landscape is not just in danger, but rather it has already been decimated, a landscape barren of rational dialogue at the hands of three decades of Religious Right firebombing. And Miller tells us to relax.”

Now some commentary …

To be sure, there’s some constitutionality issues here. But so far as I understand it, the government can’t interfere with religion but that doesn’t mean religion can’t speak for itself in public. As long as what the religious right is constitutional, no matter what logic they use to get there, it’s fair game.

One gets to wondering if evangelicals belong in America if one listens to these leftists like Niose. Evidently, they can’t make their views known in the public forum or agitate for their views unless they share his secular assumptions. Leftists never say these things about ethnic groups or any other faith, for whom they have endless tolerance and theories of victimhood to explain their tolerance. And they thump their chests about their fresh commitments to tolerance. The irony is obvious: first, they preach tolerance except for evangelicals and rightists; second, they fear dominionists but want to rule the place according to their agenda. Most obvious to me, they forget how things work in States: those with the most votes win. That is, if evangelicals can muster enough votes to win some battles, that’s the way it works. Instead of wanting to rule them off the map, they should openly admit this: “Lots of Americans, millions and millions, see things differently than I do. Millions are Christian evangelicals. But I’ll work harder for my views next time.” But, no, they want them not to vote, not to impose, and not to influence from that point of view or religious persuasion.

I like Niose complaining about Miller, and Miller barking about the leftists. That’s called public debate. Each person gets one vote and each person can speak freely. We can listen or ignore.

Hey, Mr Niose, I don’t often agree with the evangelicals when it comes to politics, and I wish the evangelicals would quit muddying the gospel with their zealous commitments to the political process and to control, but I’ll say this: This is the USA, and this is how things work. You need to work harder next time. Or you need to admit that you live in a country where evangelicals, because they are citizens, deserve to vote and deserve a place at the table.

In 2012 we’ll see who wins. For some people it’s the most important game in town.

Not for me.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Taylor

    well said.

    One thing strikes me about Niose’s assessment. Might we just as easily say that American politics has had a wrecking ball effect on the Religious Right? (with potential to have the same effect on the religious left?)

    As long as we each get voices, my two cents is that the system corrupts Christians, not vice versa. I tend to think the voice of history is with me on that one.

  • Ann F-R

    It’s interesting how much louder and intense these arguments seem to be in the metro DC area. What a contrast to my time in seminary in So. Cal. when the mystery was why the “serious” news commentators were asking actors their opinions on national and international political issues. The “most important game in town” is physically played out in the kingdom we live in, it seems. Although I grieve the escalation in the polarized rhetoric and discord we’re experiencing today, I’m all the more reminded of which kingdom has my allegiance.

  • James

    Those last two sentences are words to live by for all of us trying to become serious Christians.

  • Ted M. Gossard

    Amen, Scot. Wise, needed words.

  • Jason Lee

    This sounds a little like the “muscular liberalism” vs. multiculturalists debate surrounding the issue of Islamic incorporation in Europe. Both are liberal but the former wants to have religion-free (and patriarchy-free) public space.

    One thought occurred to me. Is Niose saying that evangelicals shouldn’t be allowed to vote or shouldn’t have a voice in public? Isn’t all he’s arguing is that liberal Americans should be afraid of an increasingly conservative evangelical political wing? Maybe I’m missing something, but isn’t he basically saying: We need to work harder for our views next time because the alternatives are getting increasingly extreme and boisterous.

  • Greg Metzger

    What specifically do you disagree with in the Niose quote? You ascribe a lot of ideological baggage to him that the quote you gave would not necessarily need. Why does his statement about Religious Right mean you wonder if he thinks evangelicals belong in America? Religious Right does not=evangelical. Does Niose say it does?

  • Scot McKnight

    Jason and Greg,

    Thanks. Maybe I’m suggesting too much in Niose. But he thinks evangelicals have ruined the conversation and are destroying the kind of liberalism he prefers. Would you agree with that?

    I think my comment about voting means more that he doesn’t think the evangelical should be voting on the basis of their religion. Is that fair to him?

    Greg, Niose wanders between terms: Religious Right, fundamentalist Christianity and evangelical.

  • Scot McKnight

    Greg, Lisa Miller says this worrisomeness about evangelical presence in politics is overblown. A kind of “here it comes again” essay.

    Niose says, “Not on your life. They are to be worried about. They’re ruining American politics.”


  • Albion

    NIose said: em>When secular progressives. . . suggest that the extreme, politicized religion of some candidates is at least worth discussing, Miller accuses us of stereotyping, of lumping all evangelicals together or misunderstanding doctrines such as Dominionism. . . . Miller is of course correct in pointing out that not all evangelicals are far-right extremists, but this does not diminish the legitimacy of concerns that certain candidates do indeed seem to promote an extremist agenda.

    It seems that Niose’s complaint is that rational dialogue is no longer possible about a candidate’s religious views. He certainly doesn’t lump all evangelicals together or say that they shouldn’t have the vote. He’s saying, i think, that an effort to discuss their views is considered hysterical. Ironically, Scot’s initial response exemplifies what Niose’s talking about.

  • Scot McKnight

    Albion, I agree that he’s not lumping all evangelicals together. But he uses three expressions: Religious Right, fundamentalist and evangelical. Do you think he is distinguishing the three? And he tosses in “extremist” too. Who are they?

  • Greg Metzger

    First, your blog provides a pair of quotes from Niose that never use the word evangelical and that would in no way make a reader think he equates evangelicals with fundamentalists and Religious Right. Second, your reply suggests that just a simple reading of his whole piece will make clear that he basically means that. I read the whole piece and I don’t think that is a fair characterization. It certainly does not justify your concluding paragraphs. Sadly, I think you prove his point–you and Miller are ascribing a knee-jerk ” here we go again” reaction to a problem that requires deeper thought than you are giving it. There is something new about the Religious Right and there is something uniquely troubling about Bachmann and Perry’s exploitation of it. To make that argument in no way means we must make the errors that some ” leftists” make of wanting a naked public square. I’m done with defending fundamentalist rhetoric and worldview in order to defend evangelical participation in American democracy.

  • Jason Lee

    Sure … broken the conversation … doesn’t think evangelicals’ religious beliefs should drive voting. But all kinds of groups think people SHOULDN’T do this or that. It doesn’t mean they want to create laws against it.

    My sense is that Noise is saying ” you can’t reason with these people ” precisely because they’re religious fundamentalists. But one might also ask if secular liberal fundamenalists also exist and is Noise one? Can muscular liberals be reasoned with?

    In the end it seems reasonable to express that there SHOULD be a political space where people can reason with each other using common language and points of reference such as facts, data, and widely confirmed scientific findings rather than shrill emotional appeals and appeals to religious beliefs (which inevitably excludes). The best of what Niose is saying seems to argue for this and against those who want to reduce public and political dialogue into games of rhetorical warfare.

  • Scot McKnight


    Thanks for that. I assume the quotes will be read in the context of his whole post and that I am not quoting everything he says.

    Second, he uses three — yea, four — terms here: evangelical, RR, fundamentalist and extremist. Do you see that he distinguishes them? I agree, he’s focused on Bachmann and Perry.

    Third, Niose to me is excoriating the presence in public politics of religiously shaped views. Do you agree here?

  • Greg Metzger

    Scot, from the beginning headline and subtitle through to the end of the blog Niose’s clear focus is on fundamentalists and religious right. He really only mentions evangelicals because he accuses Miller of defusing criticism by saying evangelicals are not scary. I really think you missed this one. You are cramming the legitimate debate over the worldview driving Bacman/Perry/religious right into a different debate about true diversity and the naked public square–sadly, the same distortion and conflation of arguments that New Yorker piece on Bachman makes.

  • Jason Lee

    “Niose to me is excoriating the presence in public politics of religiously shaped views.”

    No. He’s not doing that… What he’s doing is going after a kind of religious fundamentalism (which he mislabels “evangelical” as many journalists do) that won’t engage in rational dialogue. To the degree that religious beliefs stop people from reasoning and intelligently communicating with a broad array of Americans, he’s against religion shaped views. That’s what I see him saying … not more.

  • Clay Knick

    Very nicely done, Scot.

  • Greg Metzger

    Scot, I don’t see that in his piece at all. I think you are actually proving his point–namely, that evangelicals are failing to name and denounce frightful distortions and demagoguery because they equate that criticism with leftists and those who would rid religion completely from public life. The reality is that the Christian Rev. Martin Luther King would have rebuked the Religious Right in language quite similar to Niose’s, and often did. No one accused him of wanting to rid America of evangelicals.

  • Greg Metzger

    Yes, Jason, but I would go further and point to the specific quote where Niose says ” not all evangelicals are right-wing extremists” to say that he does not make the common mistake of journalists of equating them–in fact, he makes a point of not equating them. The common mistake in this discussion is Scot’s common evangelical mistake of jumping to the gun and putting a writer into a box he explicitly says he wants to avoid.

  • Albion

    Scot: His beef is not with evangelicals per se but with those who “deny evolution, resist efforts to address climate change, care about education only when the issues involve prayer or Intelligent Design, are hostile to the Environmental Protection Agency (which was created by Richard Nixon), and claim the moral high ground via a constant outward display of conservative religion.”

    You’re right. No one should be excluded from the public square merely because their views are informed by religious conviction. I don’t think Niose disagrees. His point is that a critique from the left of far right positions is not alarmist. But reporters like Miller have been living with this conservative cultural mindset for so long, they can’t think of it in any other way.

  • Scot McKnight

    Greg and Jason,

    Thanks, your comments are helping me to think through what these folks are talking about.

    Let me summarize again: Miller says here we go again; Niose says No way this is way too serious.

    Niose is talking not just about Bachmann and Perry; he’s talking about a history of the last three decades in which the RR, fundamentalists, extremists, evangelicals — thanks Jason for seeing he’s using evangelical as a catch-all — have decimated the public discussion. So, he’s not just talking about Perry and Bachmann, but a trend in American politics to permit religious actions become part of the political process (public).

    He thinks this is dangerous for secularists. So he wants to examine those religious views and expose them for what they are. I think Niose and others ought to ask those questions and push hard on those issues.

    Greg show me that Niose welcomes the conservative Christian voice, the fundamentalist, etc, as part of the conversation because “we the people” wants it. That’s what I see here: no matter how much I disagree with this new development, I want to fight for their right to put their view into the public arena. Are you saying he wants only to be able to examine that view? Nothing more?

    I don’t agree with Bachmann and Perry, and I hope you know that. Nor do I agree at all with the rise of the RR or the Moral Majority, etc, and I think they have done to American faith just what Niose reveals: they’ve ruined evangelicalism’s credibility.

  • Amos Paul

    I’d humbly submit that the *reason* most “Christian” politicians continuously harp on about things on the fringe of our society’s actual problems is because *those are easy votes*. Their using their religious views as a political playing card and riling people up about to keep them in office. That’s not Christian. We should have intelligent responses for people that accuse us of it being so.

  • Grupetti

    A few months ago there was a Barna poll of Evangelicals’ view of the GOP candidates. It also included the fact that there was a 94% disapproval of Obama by Evangelicals – or to be more specific, 7 Point Barnavangelicals, as I put it. That’s the core of Evangelicals and it’s way beyond heavily tilted to the right. The consequences are quite serious for many of us. Evangelicalism won’t regain credibility until the more supposedly moderate folks push back…hard. They’re winning, and it’s doing much more than destroying evangelicalism’s credibility.

  • Rick

    Jason #115-
    “What he’s doing is going after a kind of religious fundamentalism (which he mislabels “evangelical” as many journalists do) that won’t engage in rational dialogue.”

    He should be careful about mixing terms, and isn’t that partially what Miller is concerned with? She wrote:

    “Nearly 80 percent of Americans say they’re Christian. One-third of Americans call themselves “evangelical.” When millions of voters get lumped together and associated with the fringe views of a few, divisions will grow.”

  • Robin

    One thing Miller has in her favor is that the recent flap over “dominionism” and far-right ideology is indeed based upon some very shoddy reporting intended to frighten readers.

    Here is a thorough lashing of one of the articles generating this controversy. The simple fact is that the author had an anti-religious angle he wanted to push and went and made up things, or found unreliable co-conspirators, to buttress their fear-mongering.

  • Thomas S. Gay III

    “Niose says no way- this is way too serious”

    Scot has Niose wrong. He isn’t the least bit serious in the way you are. He’s playing smart politics. He knows the Republicans may choose someone who could beat Obama, or they may go for ideological purity. If the later is the case, they could pick someone who will go down in flames but burn brightly in the process. Niose is helping start those engines.

  • John

    I think this line of Noise’s article is helpful to not miss:

    “Miller is of course correct in pointing out that not all evangelicals are far-right extremists, but this does not diminish the legitimacy of concerns that certain candidates do indeed seem to promote an extremist agenda. To Miller, raising such concerns only “reignites old anxieties among liberals and evangelical Christians,” and apparently it’s better to avoid uncomfortable anxieties than to defend against public policy driven by mobilized religious fundamentalists. ”

    Here he makes a clear distinction between those causing the anxiety and those who might be susceptible to experiencing it, with evangelicals in the latter category.

    My reading of Noise’s article is that any candidate who claims a particular worldview, be it Christian fundamentalist or Secular Humanist, should expect that their views on issues be open to speculation and debate in the public forum.

    Miller seems to be arguing that there isn’t a reason to worry about particular religious beliefs held by the candidates simply because most evangelicals don’t espouse such extreme far right views.

    But to me, the question isn’t about whether most evangelicals hold these views, it is whether or not this potential presidential candidate holds a particular view.

  • Ryan

    Fear of evangelicals is irrational and just ignorant. It would be like being worried about Packer fans in Green Bay. They have been there a LOOONG time already.

    This debate might even make a modicum of sense if we were to pretend that Christians were new immigrants to America and we had no idea how they would influence the political process. But the truth is they have been around in the majority since the foundation of our nation, and its entire development.

    When the Left tries to act as if Christians are a new phenomenon to American life or politics, it just comes off as absurd.

  • Robin

    Don’t forget that in this election liberals also like to make up things to generate fear of conservative Christians. Here is what one New Yorker article (the one critiquing Michelle Bachman and Francis Schaeffer’s “dominionism”) said about Francis Schaeffer:

    “In 1981, three years before he died, Schaeffer published “A Christian Manifesto,” a guide for Christian activism, in which he argues for the violent overthrow of the government if Roe v. Wade isn’t reversed.”

    And here is what Schaeffer actually said in the Manifesto the article was supposed to be describing:

    “Two principles, however must always be observed. First, there must be a legitimate basis and a legitimate exercise of force. Second, any overreaction crosses the line from force to violence. And unmitigated violence can never be justified.”

  • Ryan

    Your right Robin, and Nancy Pearcy responded to that article in which she was called a “dominionist” by saying she had no idea what that label even meant and had to go look it up.

  • T

    I think the main point of Noise that I would take issue with is the assertion that evangelical influence is responsible for draining American politics of reason. I’d want to probe that quite a bit. This line in particular seems to suggest that religiously influenced statements or actions are inherently unreasonable and mutually exclusive with reason: “That Miller . . . doesn’t seem to understand the big-picture significance of candidates exhibiting religion-based behavior and making religion-based statements that would have gotten them laughed off the political stage not very long ago, is a sign of just how far the Religious Right has dragged America from the realm of reason.” From his standpoint, religion is inherently impossible to understand on the basis of reason, and Noise is very typically afraid of what he supposedly cannot understand.

    The great irony of his remarks is that they smack of the classic fear-based bigotry that liberals have attempted to work against for decades. There were and always have been groups who were beneath reason’s reach: blacks, women, Catholics, etc. Now it’s ‘evangelicals.’ There goes the neighborhood. The response to encourage others to give up on dialogue; to say that such is impossible with “them” is itself the problem, and it appears that liberal education does not exempt one from becoming part of it.

    I’ll be the first to talk about problems on the RR. I’m still deeply disappointed in Grudem’s recent book on several levels, for instance. I’ll vote against several candidates that are RR approved for a variety of reasons, and join with Noise, no doubt, in saying that this or that candidate would be a great risk and/or serious mistake in office. But I won’t throw up my hands and say of the entire evangelical world: “you just can’t reason with a crazy person.” Nor will I lay the current political stand-offs entirely at one group’s feet. That Noise thinks that a failure to reason and listen to each other is a RR phenomenon is proof to how much bigotry against conservative Christianity has established itself in liberal thought over the last 20 years or so.

  • Larry Barber

    I don’t think anybody is calling for the rights of Christians, evangelical, fundamentalist or otherwise to be curtailed. Christians have a right to speak, to vote, to make themselves heard. They do _not_ have a right not to have others call them on it when they use these rights in a destructive matter as I, too, think they have. Consider that John Huntsman’s affirmation of evolution and global climate change, things that vast majority of all scientists also affirm, was news and it will likely interfere with his ability to get the Republican nomination. Look at the title of Ann Coulter’s recent books, “Godless” and “Demonic”, how is this not poisoning the well of civil discourse? I realize Coulter shouldn’t be taken too seriously, that she is more of an entertainer than a true pundit, but her “entertainment” consists primarily of throwing red meat to the faithful on the right and insulting those who disagree with her.

    I do think that worrying about dominionists is rather silly. There are simply not enough of them out there for them to be a serious threat to anybody.

  • Robin

    Larry Barber,

    John Huntsmas’s affirmation of climate change and evolution are not the things that will cost him the election, they are things he has purposely put out there in recent days in order to get some, any, attention. His initial campaign events had more press attendance than actual supporters. Even a recent Michigan Poll (not a southern, evangelical, or even particularly conservative state) has him at 1% in the primaries.

    His candidacy has been DOA for weeks now, he’s just throwing his moderate-liberal credentials into the arena now to try and get someone to pay attention to him. Kind of like how Biden bragged (during the last primary) that Delaware was originally a slave state in order to try and get some conservative Democrats to vote for him over Hillary and Obama.

  • Larry Barber

    Robin, I never said those statements would cost him the nomination, only that they would make if more difficult, which is very, very sad. That saying these things, which wouldn’t even be necessary to say sans the right wing wackos in this country, lessens his ability to get a nomination from one of our major political parties is scandalous. Huntsman appears to be the only adult, or at least the only adult with integrity, in the Republican field, and he has no chance of getting nominated.

  • DRT

    The left needs to support the RR extremists until they nominate a wacko, then dismantle the wacko in the election. Unfortunately, the left has a hard time even organizing a garage sale let alone anything like that.

  • Ryan

    Larry you discredit your point by calling people you disagree with “wackos.” I am not a Ron Paul fan, but I do not think his supporters are wackos just because they are not mainstream republican.

    Besides, primaries for both political parties appeal to the extreme. You think Obama or a Democrat would make it out of their primary by talking about deficit reduction, cutting through regulations, expanding the military, and not sucking up to the unions?

    No need to see this as just a Republican issue.

  • Albion

    Ryan: You think Obama or a Democrat would make it out of their primary by talking about deficit reduction, cutting through regulations, expanding the military, and not sucking up to the unions?

    Interesting that you say that b/c that is precisely what Obama has been doing for the past six months — calculating that the vast hoard of independent voters is interested in deficit reduction, less regulation, a strong military, and concessions from unions. Obama is decidedly not appealing to the left (never mind extreme) wing of his own party in the same way that a Bachmann or a Perry appeals to the extremists on the right (no taxes under any circumstances, default if need be, repeal the 16th amendment, eliminate social security, medicare, etc.) In fact, he doesn’t try to hide his annoyance with the left wing of his own party as he tries to steer a middle course that pleases no one.

    When you consider that the current frontrunners in the GOP are Tea Party candidates, it’s obvious that the extreme right wing has much more political leverage within its party than any comparable group of extremists on the left. It’s not even a contest.

  • Joe Canner

    If you read all the way to the end of the Niose article, it seems his main take-home message is that he wants to know about the extreme anti-science, anti-education, and/or pro-religion views of candidates, and that reporters like Miller don’t think that such information is relevant to the debate.

    I agree with Scot that conservatives of all stripes have a right to a place at the table and that liberals need to put up or shut up. But I also agree with Niose that the public needs to know what they are voting for. After all, it was the RR that has made born-again faith a de facto litmus test of presidential candidacy ever since 1980 or so, and evangelicals are raising as much of a fuss about Mormon candidates as secular folks are. If candidates are going to parade their religious beliefs to get votes, then it is only fair that we know what that faith actually entails when it comes to policy.

  • Ryan

    @ Albion,

    You really are just making my point. Obama is fortunate enough that as an incumbent President he does not have to run in a primary so he can already campaign for the general election and pivot to the center as much as possible.

    What I am saying that lets not fool ourselves into thinking that if there was no incumbent Democrat candidate that their primary would look any different than the Republican one. In fact, in just the last few weeks there has been a host of articles released about the more extreme parts of the Democrat party being upset with Obama and his lack of liberal accomplishments. The Congressional Black Caucus is a prime example of this.

  • Albion

    @Ryan: I can’t agree. Obama won’t be primaried, I grant you that. But to suggest that if there were going to be a primary, the leading contenders would be progressives is nonsense. Democrats are much less ideologically driven than Republicans, much more fragmented and, consequently, disorganized. There is no part of the democratic party that could exert the kind of leverage the Tea Party currently has within Republican ranks. You’re right that some democrats are furious with Obama, but the reality is they lack any political clout. The Tea party has plenty of clout and backers in high places.

  • greg metzger

    John is completely correct in pointing to the key paragrap that Scot needs to be sure he read. To say thaty Niose is concerned about evangelicals in public square is feeling like either someone did not read the article all the way, or is reading into the article assumptions that are not at all stated in the article.

  • Thomas

    I was concerned with Rick Perry’s The Response prayer event and do consider some of the endorsers like Mike Bickle, Cindy Jacobs, Che Ahn, etc. to be far from the mainstream of evangelicals. I hope I’m right. Looking forward to NPR’s Fresh Air show today as they will discuss some of these issues.

  • DRT

    I will state more explicitly what Joe and greg allude to.

    Niose article is concerned with the fact that many of these candidates have irrational beliefs about the age of the earth and climate change and those are good indications as to whether they would be rational leaders. The point is not whether they deserve a voice, but are they competent.

  • Ryan

    @ Albion

    It is probably a fool’s errand to try and quantify the levels and organization of each parties extreme elements…At the same time though, you easily match the influence of the Tea Party alone in the unions,, trial lawyers and the Congressional Black Caucus. Not to mention these entities are much more entrenched and institutionalized than the newly founded Tea Party.

  • Dutch Rikkers

    Agree, Scot. Just wish evangelicals would stop conflating Christianity with laissez-faire libertarianism and spending more time listening to Limbaugh, Hannity, and Beck than the truth of Scripture and the many other commentators more committed to Christ than politics. Many seem to have a new religion based on the views of these wealthy “entertainers.” Hanlimbeckism, I call it.

  • Albion

    @Ryan: They may be more institutionalized but have none of the power that the Tea Party has over the party. There’s a real rift within the Republican party right now because the old line knows that TP candidates can’t win a general election but the TP got a lot of people elected in 2010 so they have been able to influence Presidential politics in ways that moveon, unions and black caucus cannot come close to matching. That’s just a fact.

  • Ryan

    Its not a fact Albion. And now you are contradicting yourself. Before you said you wished the Democrats were as organized and unifed as the Repbulican party. Now you are saying that the Tea Party has caused fraction in the Republican party. Which is it?

    Either way, I will stand by what I said in that the extreme influence of both parties is fairly equal. Looking at the donations it would be no contest that the Liberal groups I mentioned give way more to their party than Tea Party folks do, and as they say, “money is the mother’s milk of politics…” so there is that.

  • AHH

    Another way of making the point Albion noted in #39 is to note that, when the Democrats had contested primary seasons in 2004 and 2008, their candidates who were extreme at a Tea-Partyish level (Dennis Kucinich, Al Sharpton) did not have nearly as much impact on their party as we are seeing with the Republicans this time around (or even as we saw with Ron Paul in 2008).

    Of course part of the challenge with this discussion is that much is subjective; one person’s “extreme” may be another person’s “a little right/left of center”.

  • Rick

    Thomas #41-

    Although I am cautious because it is Fresh Air (not the most objective show), it was an interesting discussion. I was unfamiliar with that NAR. I think the influence of the group on the candidates is still unclear, and the reporter is fair and says that.

    Thanks for mentioning it.

  • Allison

    Uhh… AHH,

    Obama at the time was rated as the most liberal Senator in all of the senate. So your example massively fails. Not only did the democratic party thrive of their policy liberal fringe, they elected the torch bearer of it.

  • Fish

    The Tea Party has power over the Republican party because that is where the Tea Party came from. Remember that the most common denominator of a Tea Party is previous conservative Republican activism. They are not new people politically. They are old hands with a new brand. And they will keep any Republican who accepts evolution or global warming from being nominated.

    I only wish that MoveOn had as much influence. If they did, Obama might start acting like a Democrat rather than continually kneeling at the feet of the Republican party.

  • P.

    Scot, amen, and amen. Heavens, Mr. Niose certainly does have his knickers in a twist.

  • TJJ

    What liberal politicians and pundits fear are the policies of the current republican candidates. Balanced budget, repeal Obama care, less goverment regulations, smaller federal goverment footprinta, etc.

    But it seems they cannot articulate cempelling arguments for their policies. More spending, bigger federal goverment, more entitlement programs, more regulations, etc.

    So they go after other issues like the candidates religious views on evolution, etc., and characterize them as stupid, or ignortant, or backward. But do they attack the religious views of Muslim candidates? No. Do they attack the religious views of Mormans….in the case of Huntsman, who is closer to a democrat in his politices than any other republican candidate, no. Of Harry Reid? No. But of Romney? Yes.

    It all comes down to the fact that “evangelical voters and candidates tend to be conservative replublicans, and thus the political enemy. If they were democrats, supporting democratic policies, you would not see critiques like this from democratic pundits against evengeicals, Period. It is all politics and it is all about winning power. Period.

  • TSG

    TJJ…. you are so right on that I tried to look up how you responded on other issues…..but I don’t know how.

  • DLS

    One of the things that I love about this debate is that the same group who will decry the idea of “the religious right” voting on their crazy religious beliefs will often be the same ones who vote the other way based on their “social justice” view of the gospel.

    They don’t even stop for a moment to consider the cartoonish hypocrisy of that.

    This applies less to the linked articles are more to the comments above.

  • Patrick


    Left side believers are as bad as any rightist to project their pre conceived political views onto Scripture and to condemn fellow believers who disagree with them.

    Both act this way.

  • Paul Johnston

    Not an American so I have no parochial interest. Still as a Christian I think it is always prudent to demarcate the right church/government divide.

    With all due respect to Mr. Niose, I think he misses the boat and is wholly innaccurate when he describes a position I would mostly agree with, as unreasonable. Rather it is to him, as his argument is to me, mostly irrelevant. Each side of the debate presents a “reasonable unto it’s own dogma” argument. It does no good for people on either side of the divide to infer the other side is stupid or lacking reason to it’s perspectives. It is better and more honest to say that though the arguements are reasonable they are not compelling to me because…I am invested in causes and beliefs that supercede or conflict with your point of view.

    As for the Christian religeous activism that has been expressed politically through the Republican party the last thirty years or so, again Mr Niose’s perspective is irrelevant. He is simply picking a fight that is best avoided. The right discussion ought to be about the effectiveness and the measure of Gospel outcomes political participation has precipitated. 30 years is enough time to gauge the truth. Has the Gospel been advanced? Is America a more recognizably Christian place? Are you holier? Has the lot of the least of yours improved?

    Christians, particularly those who have cast their lot politically need to talk with other Christians and begin to ask themselves if the approach they have taken is the right one. Maybe it is time to change course. Maybe the “fruit” hasn’t been what it should have been.

    Insofar as that important discussion is concerned, Mr Niose’s participation is, to my mind, surprise surprise, completely irrelevant. Unless of course someone thinks a resolute unbeliever (read shit disturber in the origional copy :) ) is necessary to the discussion.

  • Greg Metzger

    It has taken me a week, but I have produced a lengthy piece challenging Scot’s take and bringing broader evidence to play in the question of how “evangelical” Perry and Bachmann are. The piece is titled “Evangelicalism’s Perry/Bachmann Problem”. I hope some of you will read it and tell me what you think.