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November 14, 2004 - The Limits of Being Snide

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Maureen Dowd….  Someone needs to slap this woman.  She identifies an obvious issue – the misuse of religion, specifically Christianity.  Well, maybe less a misuse than a reversion to its tradition use – to vilify and punish those who are not like those who are Christian, as with the Inquisition and all that.  That is, using Christianity as a tool of oppression to eliminate, any way you can, “the other” out there who is so scary.  Be that as it may, she marshals recent events – the Dobson interview and Bob Jones letter (reprinted all over the web) and all the rest.  But the tone is all wrong.  She does a goof on it all, preferring to be snide rather than persuasive.   This is one of the most perplexing cultural issues there is these days.  I wonder who will write a serious version of this?  I’m sorry she’s on my side.


Slapping the Other Cheek

Maureen Dowd – New York Times - November 14, 2004


Here’s the opening:


You'd think the one good thing about merging church and state would be that politics would be suffused with glistening Christian sentiments like "love thy neighbor," "turn the other cheek," "good will toward men," "blessed be the peacemakers" and "judge not lest you be judged."


Yet somehow I'm not getting a peace, charity, tolerance and forgiveness vibe from the conservatives and evangelicals who claim to have put their prodigal son back in office.


I'm getting more the feel of a vengeful mob - revved up by rectitude - running around with torches and hatchets after heathens and pagans and infidels.

One fiery Southern senator actually accused a nice Catholic columnist of having horns coming up out of her head!


She calls the letter from Bob Jones III, president of the fundamentalist college of the same name, to Bush…  way harsh.  Really?


But the letter goes like this (my emphases) –


In your re-election, God has graciously granted America—though she doesn't deserve it—a reprieve from the agenda of paganism. You have been given a mandate. We the people expect your voice to be like the clear and certain sound of a trumpet. Because you seek the Lord daily, we who know the Lord will follow that kind of voice eagerly.

Don't equivocate. Put your agenda on the front burner and let it boil. You owe the liberals nothing. They despise you because they despise your Christ. Honor the Lord, and He will honor you.

Had your opponent won, I would have still given thanks, because the Bible says I must (I Thessalonians 5:18). It would have been hard, but because the Lord lifts up whom He will and pulls down whom He will, I would have done it. It is easy to rejoice today, because Christ has allowed you to be His servant in this nation for another presidential term. Undoubtedly, you will have opportunity to appoint many conservative judges and exercise forceful leadership with the Congress in passing legislation that is defined by biblical norm regarding the family, sexuality, sanctity of life, religious freedom, freedom of speech, and limited government. You have four years—a brief time only—to leave an imprint for righteousness upon this nation that brings with it the blessings of Almighty God.


This is serious stuff.  Really.


And Dowd on the matter of Arlen Specter?


The Christian avengers and inquisitors, hearts hard as marble, are chasing poor 74-year-old Arlen Specter through the Capitol's marble halls, determined to flagellate him and deny him his cherished goal of taking over the Senate Judiciary Committee.


Not only are they irate at his fairly innocuous comment after the election that anti-Roe v. Wade judges would have a hard time getting through the Senate. They are also full of bloodthirsty feelings of revenge against the senator for championing stem cell research and for voting against Robert Bork - who denounces Mr. Specter as "a bit shifty" - 17 years ago.


"He is a problem, and he must be derailed," Dr. James Dobson, founder and chairman of Focus on the Family, told George Stephanopoulos.


Sounding more like the head of a mob family than a ministry, Dr. Dobson told Mr. Stephanopoulos about a warning he issued a White House staffer after the election that the president and Republicans had better deliver on issues like abortion, gay marriage and conservative judges or "I believe they'll pay a price in the next election."


Certainly Mr. Specter has done his part for the conservative cause. He accused Anita Hill of "flat-out perjury" for a minor inconsistency in her testimony against Clarence Thomas, that good Christian jurist who once had a taste for porn films.


And on another prominent Republican who isn’t sufficiently evangelical?


… Mr. Stephanopoulos asked Dr. Dobson about his comment to The Daily Oklahoman that "Patrick Leahy is a 'God's people-hater.' I don't know if he hates God, but he hates God's people," noting that it was not a particularly Christian thing to say about the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. (Especially after that vulgar un-Christian thing Dick Cheney spat at Mr. Leahy last summer.)


"George," Dr. Dobson haughtily snapped back, "do you think you ought to lecture me on what a Christian is all about?" Why not? The TV host is the son of a Greek Orthodox priest.


And Dowd touches on Ashcroft, as he leaves –


Speaking Friday before an adulatory Federalist Society, a group of conservative lawyers, Mr. Ashcroft echoed remarks he made to the Senate soon after 9/11 arguing that objecting to the president's antiterror proposals could give "ammunition to America's enemies."


He asserted that judges who interfere in or second-guess the president's constitutional authority to make decisions during war can jeopardize the "very security of our nation in a time of war."


She asks of this makes Bush him infallible ad infinitum? 


Cute joke.  It’s more serious than that.


Over at Body and Soul you’ll find something more pointed




Just glancing at the front page of the Los Angeles Times this morning, I thought of the first time I heard George Bush use a holy place to speak of vengeance. His widely praised speech on September 14, 2001, in the Washington National Cathedral had much good in it, but had one section that shocked me at the time:


Just three days removed from these events, Americans do not yet have the distance of history, but our responsibility to history is already clear: to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil. War has been waged against us by stealth and deceit and murder. This nation is peaceful, but fierce when stirred to anger. This conflict was begun on the timing and terms of others; it will end in a way and at an hour of our choosing.


With three years' distance, that statement doesn't seem so shocking anymore. But at the time I remember literally gasping when he spoke those words, the way I would if someone pulled out a gun during Mass. The arrogance and the blasphemy stunned me. And I could not believe that no one but me seemed to recoil at those words, spoken in a church. Give him all the credit you want for the rest of the speech, which is fine, but at least acknowledge that to enter a cathedral and claim the powers of divinity was deeply offensive to many people of faith. Looking back, I'm no longer shocked because it's now clear that those words were not a gross faux pas, they were the essence of the speech. It was the parts about kindness and generosity that didn't belong. Claiming godhood was the point.


And that is the point.


Wednesday’s Times also has photo of our soldiers talking and resting inside a mosque a few hours after they took control of it.  This bothers the writer also –


Apparently I'm still capable of shock, because I at least did a double take when I saw soldiers in a shattered mosque lying on my kitchen table.  I know what my reaction would be if this were my church.  Desecration.  I am not a Muslim, but the violence done to any holy place hurts.  There was at least talk of concern about desecration in Najaf, and I wonder now if we have given up any pretense of caring about that.  I wonder if I will look back and think that desecration was the whole point.


My god is bigger than your god.  Beyond that symbolism, can anyone explain what the point of attacking Fallujah is?  Does control of that city matter if it angers the rest of Iraq?  Do we just keep playing whack-a-mole when they pop up again in Mosul and elsewhere?


Or do we just hope that if we keep feigning divinity, it will eventually be ours?


Good question.  And a serious one. 



Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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