Friday, March 10, 2006

"When Would Jesus Bolt?"

Interesting article in Washington Monthly by Amy Sullivan about how the coin is dropping for some politically powerful evangelical Christians. They are realizing just how pawn-like their role is in the Republican party. Read the entire article by clicking here. It's long but really interesting. Some highlights (good Bono quote at the end):

Dr. Randy Brinson organized Redeem the Vote, a Christian youth focused voter registration effort that registered more folks in 2003 than the combined efforts of Focus on the Family, American Family Association and the Family Research Council:

One of the leading advocates of the Bible course, Dr. Randy Brinson, met me at entrance to the state house. Brinson, a tall sandy-haired physician from Montgomery who speaks with a twang and the earnest enthusiasm of a youth-group leader, is a lifelong Republican and founder of Redeem the Vote, a national voter registration organization that targets evangelicals. Since discovering the Bible literacy course, he has successfully lobbied politicians in Florida, Georgia, and Missouri to introduce bills that would set up similar classes. But it is here at home that he's encountered the most resistance. “You should see who's against this thing,” he told me, shaking his head.

Indeed, when Brinson and the other supporters—including several Pentecostal ministers, some Methodists, and a member of the state board of education—entered the state house chamber to make their case, they faced off against representatives from the Christian Coalition, Concerned Women of America, and the Eagle Forum. These denizens of the Christian Right denounced the effort, calling it “extreme” and “frivolous” and charging that it would encourage that most dangerous of activities, “critical thinking.” The real stakes of the fight, though, were made clear by Republican Rep. Scott Beason when he took his turn at the lectern. “This is more than about God,” he reminded his colleagues. “This is about politics.”

Actually, it's about both—a fight over which party gets to claim the religious mantle. Nationally, and in states like Alabama, the GOP cannot afford to allow Democrats a victory on anything that might be perceived as benefiting people of faith. Republican political dominance depends on being able to manipulate religious supporters with fear, painting the Democratic Party as hostile to religion and in the thrall of secular humanists.


Realizing religious concerns involve more than a single issue.

The Democrats wanted to reach out to evangelicals, and Brinson wanted to connect with politicians who could deliver on a broader array of evangelical concerns, like protecting programs to help the poor, supporting public education, and expanding health care. It had seemed natural for him to start by pressing his own party to take up those concerns, but Democrats appeared to be more willing partners. They even found common ground on abortion when Brinson, who is very pro-life, explained that he was more interested in lowering abortion rates by preventing unwanted pregnancies than in using the issue to score political points.



The lights are going on.

Every few days, Randy Brinson calls me with another revelation. Republicans? “The power structure in the Republican Party is too entrenched with big business. It's not with evangelicals—they're a means to an end.” The Christian Right? “They just want to keep the culture war going because it raises a lot of money for them.” Abramoff? “Evangelicals were being used as pawns to promote a big money agenda.” His fellow evangelicals? “Can't they see that Republicans are just pandering to them??”



Why are Republicans so concerned about the Religious Left?

And if the Democratic Party changed its reputation on religion, the result could alter the electoral map in a more significant and permanent way.

That's why, insiders say, the word has gone forth from the Republican National Committee to defeat Democratic efforts to reclaim religion. Republicans who disregard the instructions and express support for Democratic efforts are swiftly disciplined. At the University of Alabama, the president of the College Republicans was forced to resign after she endorsed the Bible legislation."



Richard Cizik, vice president for governmental affairs at the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE):

A month later, I ran into Cizik at the National Prayer Breakfast. That morning, he had opened up his Washington Post to find an article based on a letter to his boss from the old guard—Dobson, Colson, Wildmon, and the rest—suggesting, in the way that Tony Soprano makes suggestions, that the NAE back off its plan to take a public position on global warming. “Bible-believing evangelicals,” the letter-writers argued, “disagree about the cause, severity and solutions to the global warming issue.” The leaked letter was a blatant attempt to torpedo Cizik's efforts, and it had worked. The NAE would take no stand on climate change.

There was no doubt that the administration had prevailed on the more pliable figures of the Christian Right to whack one of their own. Cizik was beside himself. It was hard to resist the “I told you so” moment, and I didn't. But when I suggested to him that this was an example of the way that business seemed to win out most of the time when religious and business interests came into conflict in GOP politics, he stopped me. “Not most of the time,” he corrected. “Every time. Every single time.” And he's no longer sure that can change. “Maybe not with this administration.... We need to stop putting all of our eggs in one basket—that's just not good politics.”


I know I appear like a lefty, but I'm actually a balance-of-power-y. Though my personal perspective is progressive, I'd prefer bipartisan control of things to avoid larger than tolerable corruption. This article is at least a sign that such a situation might emerge someday. Finally:

On U2's Bono very warm reception at a National Prayer Breakfast:

Bono highlighted this tension between what's good for corporate interests and what serves the cause of justice. He went through a litany of examples—trade agreements that make it harder for Third-World countries to sell their products, tax policies that shift debt to the next generation, patent laws that raise the price of life-saving drugs—and then put the challenge to his audience: “God will not accept that. Mine won't, at least. Will yours?”


1 Comments:

Blogger Beth said...

If you haven't seen the whole NPB speech, it's here
http://www.data.org/archives/000774.php

9:28 AM  

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