Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Grooming Politicians for Christ


In the blue and gold elegance of the House speaker's private dining room, Jeremy Bouma bowed his head before eight young men and women who hope to one day lead the nation. He prayed that they might find wisdom in the Bible — and govern by its word.

"Holy Father, we thank you for providing us with guidance," said Bouma, who works for an influential televangelist. "Thank you, Lord, for these students. Build them up as your warriors and your ambassadors on Capitol Hill."
The LA Times has yet another report on the evangelical plan to turn our pretty little country from one ruled by law to one ruled by the Old Testament. With each new report (Jeff Sharlett's Harper's piece was an early report that shocked liberals--but now even the title has been appropriated) , the language of the subject becomes more overtly theocratic.
That puts them at the vanguard of a bold effort by evangelical conservatives to mold a new generation of leaders who will answer not to voters, but to God.

"We help them understand God's purpose for society," said Bouma, who coordinates the program, known as the Statesmanship Institute, for the Rev. D. James Kennedy.
At this point, analysis is mostly moot. It is fundamentalism of the most elemental strain, distinct from Islamic fundamentalists only in method (so far, the movement is political, not violent), not intention. Arguing it or pointing out the absurdities is a useless venture. What these folks offer is an affront to democracy (which they acknowledge) as well as religion (which they've blinded themselves to).

And mostly, reading through the article is like sifting through the minds of crazy people. So extreme are these people that they've deviated not only from the word and the spirit of the faith, but the faith itself: "As Kennedy put it: 'If we leave it to man to decide what's good and evil, there will be chaos.'" (A key feature of the protestant reformation was the belief that man can determine what's good and evil--he did not need the intercession of a pope or priest. But this Presbyterian minister will have you believe that to the closet of the divine, only he has the keys.)

I'd regard this as a grim specter of what's to come, but the fanatics the Times describes speak for a tiny (albeit motivated) minority of Americans who will be properly appalled when these theocrats start filtering up toward the light of power. Worse for the GOP, this cohort will not be willing to work within a coalition of non-fanatics, nor even with ineffectual believers (Our candidates tick off the right policy positions, but it turns out, once they're in office, they're willing to compromise an awful lot ... Now, religious conservatives are saying they want the real thing.")

This is a deep and dangerous faultline running underneath the GOP's base. Signposts say "Rough Road Ahead."

Also commenting: Susie Madrak, Echidne, Pandagon.

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