Danforth recently published an op-ed piece, What is fair comment on a candidate's religion? St. Louis Beacon 10/21/2011, in which he assumes a concern-troll stances about the excesses of Both Sides, but really is an argument that we should all ignore the Christian dominionist extremism in the current Republican Party.
Danforth makes a remarkable set of claims. He argues that it would "divide America according to religion" and be "destructive to civil discourse" to: question Michelle Bachmann's publicly stated position that she is required by God to submit to her husband in her career choices; to be mildly irreverent about religious claims of Christian denominations; to question Gov. Goodhair Perry's sneering at separation of church and state; to challenge Bachmann's public statement about God using a hurricane as a political message; to look at the theocratic ideas and leaders with which candidates have associated themselves; or, to question Gov. Goodhair's public association with John Hagee, who even Maverick McCain rejected his support in 2008 because of Hagee's public anti-Semitism.
What one does not get in Danforth's long column is any description of what a major role organized conservative Christian political groups play in today's Republican Party. No mention of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) figures who played such a major public role in launching and supporting Gov. Goodhair's Presidential campaign.
And, in classic mealy-mouthed "moderation", Danforth toward the end of his long article then concedes that several of the writers he scolds for raising religion-related issues about Republican candidates actually raise legitimate issues! No, it doesn't make jack for sense logically. But it let Danforth take both sides of the issue and stand above the fray, while at the same time giving emphasis to how the wicked libruls are questioning the faith of Real Americans like Gov. Goodhair and Michelle Bachmann. And in a long essay, he manages to duck the issues about Presidential candidates' theocratic positions that have been highlighted and researched well by sites like Talk to Action and Religion Dispatches and the excellent investigative piece by Forrest Wilder in the Texas Observer, Rick Perry's Army of God (08/03/2011).
Danforth first tut-tuts the Republicans on issues like abortion:
The not very subtle message of practitioners of this sort of politics is that one's position on an issue such as abortion or stem cell research is God's position, and one's political campaign is a religious crusade.The Republicans, of course, are going to keep right on doing that, as Danforth surely knows. They've spent decades developing that political and religious branding.
But it's those naughty libruls who are the real problem:
However, just as politicians can use religion divisively, so critics of religiously oriented politicians can be divisive. When religious people think they are being treated unfairly by their critics, and when they think that their religious beliefs are under attack, the same "us against them" mentality brought about by wedge issue politicians is fostered by the critics. The question, then, is when commentary about the religious orientation of politicians is appropriate and helpful to our understanding of politics and when it is unfair and destructive.He clucks his op-ed tongue at New York Times' editor Bill Keller for making mildly irreverent comments about Mormonism in the context of defending Mitt Romney against anti-Mormon talk. He disapproves of anyone questioning Michelle Bachmann on her beliefs, which she articulated in public as part of a campaign appeal to the Republican base, about the obligation of a woman to submit to her husband. The woman's running for President of the United States. And if her weird husband has the divine right to give her commands she is required to obey, which is the plain meaning of her public description of wifely submission, people who may be voting for her really need to know that. But the nice "moderate" Mr. Danforth says it's "unrelated to public policy".
Danforth's column is even inspiring me to defend Dana Milbank, for which I'll probably be grinding my teeth in my sleep all night tonight. Danforth:
A broader attack on a theological position, made without reference to any supposed connection between belief and politics, is in a Washington Post column by Dana Milbank critical of Perry:Milbank is a high-level hack. But Danforth doesn't dispute his characterization of Gov. Goodhair as having "no use for those". If Perry is unwilling to work with non-Christians, which is how I read über-hack Milbank's words, that certainly is a very legitimate political issue in a democratic election!
"Perry has no use for those who 'want to recognize Jesus as a good teacher, but nothing more.' Of those non-Christians, Perry asks, 'Why call him good if he has lied about his claims of deity and misled two millennia of followers?'"
The Milbank column in question is this one (though Danforth's op-ed doesn't give the citation or a link, which is actually standard practice for op-eds), Rick Perry is no libertarian 08/30/2011. Here's the Milbank quote with more context:
Perry’s politics are religious in a way not seen before in modern-day mainstream presidential candidates. "Either faith in Christ can cleanse all people of their sin, or none, but not some," he writes. "The truth of Christ's death, resurrection, and power over sin is absolute. . . . What we believe about it does not determine its truthfulness."You know, I don't have the privilege that Perry's supporters in the New Apostolic Reformation do of receiving messages and direct visions from God. But I'm just guessing that whether the US Pledge of Allegiance to the flag includes the word "God" is pretty low on the list of the Almighty's moral concerns.
Perry has no use for those who "want to recognize Jesus as a good teacher, but nothing more." Of those non-Christians, Perry asks, "why call him good if he has lied about his claims of deity and misled two millennia of followers?"
The governor forecasts divine punishment for those who hold different political views. "Shall they stand before God and brag that they fought to scrub His glorious name from the nation's pledge?" he asks. "Shall they seek His approval for attacking private organizations merely because these organizations proclaim His existence?"
Remarkably, given the tone of his article, when he gets down to the mealy-mouthed "moderate" section of his long essay, Danforth pretty much says the same thing: "It is difficult to imagine that when we stand before God, as Perry envisions, God will judge us on whether his name is in or out of the Pledge of Allegiance."
And who are these people Gov. Goodhair complains about "for attacking private organizations merely because these organizations proclaim" the existence of God? Is there a wave of atheist-backed church bombings going on I haven't heard about?
Grinding down more teeth, I'll point out here that Milbank was looking at Gov. Goodhair's own published words with books listing him as an author. And he cites a number of principles based on his religion that strongly suggest he would be intolerant and downright hostile to significant segments of American society. Milbank, at least in this column, wasn't relying on the word of some Sunday School class member from Perry's church.
Danforth's piece is a long one, and is filled with more along these same lines. To sum it up, its early focus is to scold those bad libruls from wicked publications like the New York Times, the Washington Post, the New Yorker and even-the-liberal New Republic. The latter part of the piece, which fewer readers will persist to read, provides alibi positions to let Danforth be cited as a "moderate". And his above-the-fray stance let's him avoid passing judgment on the real existing theocratic politics of his Republican Party.
Tags: christian right, john danforth, republican party