So here’s a common urban legend on the religious right, stated here by Phyllis Schlafly:
Every time [President Obama] recites the Declaration of Independence, he omits the word “Creator.” Now we all know what’s in the Declaration and it’s very strange, you can’t blame it on a slip of the tongue or blame it on the teleprompter because he does it all the time.
It’s terrible that the president keeps misquoting the Declaration. And it’s especially terrible that the word he keeps leaving out — “Creator” — is a reference to God.
President Obama, apparently, has a God-talk problem.
Except that he doesn’t. Phyllis Schlafly is lying.
President Obama quotes that section of the Declaration of Independence a lot. A lot. And he quotes the whole thing, every time.
And the fact that he does so doesn’t change the accusations made against him by people like Phyllis Schlafly.
Now, when those accusations start to pile up, some pundits will call on the president to start quoting this passage and saying “endowed by their Creator” even more. They urge him to just start saying it a ridiculous number of times until Schlafly and the religious right can no longer plausibly claim that he’s never said it.
It’s a charmingly optimistic response: “Come on, we’ll show ’em the truth!”
The problem with that advice is twofold: 1) It presumes, inaccurately, that these people care about the truth — that their complaint is being made in good faith and is not an explicit lie told for explicitly political reasons; and 2) Schlafly et. al. will claim that Obama has only just now begun saying this due solely to their attacks, and only because they called him out on it. And thus they’ll spin it around and begin attacking him every time he says “endowed by their Creator.”
That’s frustrating, but that’s how it works when you’re dealing with bad-faith actors who half-justify their lying by reassuring themselves that lying for Jesus is a Good Thing if it helps to defeat the evil baby-killing liberals. So they’ll keep attacking Obama for never saying “Creator” until that lie becomes to obvious to continue, at which point they’ll start attacking him for only saying it because they forced him to and for not really believing it or some such. But they won’t stop attacking him, that’s just who they are and what they do.
And of course these folks don’t just spread lies about the president. They spread such lies about everyone they perceive to be evil liberals — including any Christians who fail any of their ever-multiplying culture-war litmus tests. They say that such people are not really Christians — that they hate Jesus and disrespect the Bible.
That can be exhausting. And it’s exasperating if you happen to be a politically liberal Christian who loves Jesus and respects the Bible.
I suspect that such exhaustion and exasperation is part of what led to Tony Jones’ recent challenge to progressive Christian bloggers to include more visible, explicit “God-talk.” It’s that same optimistic “Come on, we’ll show ’em who we really are!” response.
But again, this response is doomed because they don’t care who we really are. They’re not accusing us in good faith. They’re not attacking us based on anything we’ve said or done, and so nothing we say or do will prevent them from continuing to attack us and continuing to accuse us of whatever it is they need to say to portray us as the bogeyman they need us to be.
That’s just who they are and what they do. And no amount of God-talk will change that.