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.
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.