Thursday, May 05, 2005


We rarely comment on the blitherings of odious fuckwit David Brooks because we have always believed that, in order to make a proper job of it, we would have to read the blitherings of odious fuckwit David Brooks on a regular basis -- and who among us would knowingly take on such a task? Examining the contents of Mr. Brooks's drool cup today we learn that:
When great leaders make daring leaps, they often feel themselves surrendering to Divine Providence, and their strength flows from their faith that they are acting in accordance with transcendent moral truth.
-- and --
Politically, [Lincoln] knew that the country needed the evangelicals' moral rigor to counteract the forces of selfishness and subjectivism, but he could never actually be an evangelical himself. So, like many other Whigs, he was with the evangelicals, but not of them.
-- and --
Another [lesson we can learn from Lincoln] is that while the evangelical tradition is deeply consistent with the American creed, sometimes evangelical causes can overflow the banks defined by our founding documents. I believe the social conservatives' attempt to end the judicial filibuster is one of these cases.
We will not even bother to point out that Brooks characterizes the Sunday school movement and the temperance movement as "internal improvements that transformed the country." We will merely note that, when it comes to the interpenetration of government and religion, Brooks adopts not the Lockean, but rather the Goldilockean position: Papa Bear says no religion. Too hard! Mama Bear says all religion. Too soft! But Baby Bear says a li'l bit of religion. Jus-s-s-s-t right!!!

There is a simple and obvious answer to this sort of pernicious hooey, and Zemblan patriot D.R.B. enunciates it quite nicely in a letter he wrote to the NYT and forwarded to us:
While America's greatest leaders may have taken some comfort in the thought of divine providence, it was AFTER they had faced a difficult issue and chosen a course of action they hoped would produce the best result for the nation and its people. It is one thing for a leader to make an informed policy decision based upon the facts and the principles of American democracy, and quite another to draw upon his or her personal religous faith to meet the challenges that implementing the decision may present.

To base any government policy upon specific religious tenets, however closely those tenets may accord with a higher truth embraced by a majority of religious and secular philosophies, is contrary to the intent of the Founding Fathers. As Thomas Jefferson stated in the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, "to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion . . . destroys all religious liberty, because he ... will make his opinions the rule of judgment, and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own." James Madison expressed similar concerns that legislation related to religion would establish the idea "that the Civil Magistrate is a competent Judge of Religious Truth; or that he may employ Religion as an engine of Civil policy. The first is an arrogant pretension falsified by the contradictory opinions of Rulers in all ages, and throughout the world: the second an unhallowed perversion of the means of salvation."

Congressional over-reaching in the Terry Schiavo case is an example of this Administration's attempts to make the beliefs of one religious sect the basis of government policy and action. This week's revelation--
also in The New York Times--that "evangelical Christian faculty members, officers and cadets [at the Air Force Academy] routinely proselytize and intimidate those on campus who do not hold the same religious beliefs" is another clear illustration of the way that the extreme right of the Republican Party and this Administration have begun to systematically abuse the power of government as Jefferson and Madison feared. In Virginia, the colonists were more incensed that only Anglicans could hold political office than they were about taxation without representation, As Jefferson phrased it: "the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to the offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which in common with his fellow citizens he has a natural right; that it tends also to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing, with a monopoly of worldly honors and emoluments, those who will externally profess and conform to it..."

While one might argue that any 'litmus test' based upon support for or opposition to abortion rights, gay marriage, the death penalty, or any other social issue with religious implications would be of concern to Jefferson and Madison as religiously based, I think it is clear that the Founding Fathers were in agreement that government policy should never be predicated upon the beliefs of one religious sect, and that the complete separation of church and state was essential to the proper functioning of government and the protection of the citizens from excesses of government power. If you don't agree, I suggest you read the full text of--

The Virginia Act For Establishing Religious Freedom -- Thomas Jefferson

Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments -- James Madison
SIDEBAR: Our BARBaric colleague Paperwight directs your attention to a case in which the 4th Circuit Court gave Wiccans the bum's rush, ruling that "a Virginia county can refuse to let a witch give the invocation at its meetings by limiting the privilege to clergy representing Judeo-Christian monotheism . . . 'The Judeo-Christian tradition is, after all, not a single faith but an umbrella covering many faiths,' Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III wrote in the opinion." Religions outside that tradition and therefore not covered by the umbrella are presumably, in the eyes of the law, all wet.

SIDEBAR II: The Columbia Journalism Review reports that you can stop worrying about Fox News, which is no longer the most baleful channel in your cable lineup:

And CBN, or Christian Broadcasting Network, is just one star in a vast and growing Christian media universe, which has sprung up largely under the mainstream’s radar. Conservative evangelicals control at least six national television networks, each reaching tens of millions of homes, and virtually all of the nation’s more than 2,000 religious radio stations. Thanks to Christian radio’s rapid growth, religious stations now outnumber every other format except country music and news-talk. If they want to dwell solely in this alternative universe, believers can now choose to have only Christian programs piped into their homes. Sky Angel, one of the nation’s three direct-broadcast satellite networks, carries thirty-six channels of Christian radio and television — and nothing else.

As Christian broadcasting has grown, pulpit-based ministries have largely given way to a robust programming mix that includes music, movies, sitcoms, reality shows, and cartoons. But the largest constellation may be news and talk shows. Christian public affairs programming exploded after September 11, and again in the run-up to the 2004 presidential election. And this growth shows no signs of flagging.

Evangelical news looks and sounds much like its secular counterpart, but it homes in on issues of concern to believers and filters events through a conservative lens. In some cases this simply means giving greater weight to the conservative side of the ledger than most media do. In other instances, it amounts to disguising a partisan agenda as news. Likewise, most guests on Christian political talk shows are drawn from a fixed pool of culture warriors and Republican politicians. Even those shows that focus on non-political topics — such as finance, health, or family issues — often weave in political messages. Many evangelical programs and networks are, in fact, linked to conservative Christian political or legal organizations, which use broadcasts to help generate funding and mobilize their base supporters, who are tuning in en masse. Ninety-six percent of evangelicals consume some form of Christian media each month, according to the Barna Research Group.

Given their content and their reach, it’s likely that Christian broadcasters have helped drive phenomena that have recently confounded much of the public and the mainstream media — including the surge in “value voters” and the drive to sustain Terri Schiavo’s life, a story that was incubated in evangelical media three years before it hit the mainstream. Nor has evangelical media’s influence escaped the notice of those who stroll the halls of power. They’ve been courted by the likes of Rupert Murdoch, Mel Gibson, and George W. Bush. All the while, they’ve remained hidden in plain sight — a powerful but largely unnoticed force shaping American politics and culture.

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