A couple of weeks ago, Timothy Dalrymple, Associate Director of Content for Patheos.com, issued a challenge to writers, in part as a response to separate pieces posted here at Patrol,one by Sessions and another by me, both about the Glenn Beck rally back in August. Sessions noted that the real problem with evangelicals’ new love affair with Beck is that it prioritized their common America worship over theological differences; and I, and others, saw the rally as the birth of a new national religion.
Dalrymple posed a set of questions to us personally, and to the larger community in an effort to host a thoughtful and informed discussion about the relationship between religion and politics. You can see his initial invitation here, and the landing page for the discussion, which Dalrymple titled “American Evangelicalism and National Idolatry” here.
My response, in which I posit that President Obama’s 2006 keynote speech at the Call to Renewal conference sets the template for the mixing of religion and politics, has been posted already. Keep checking Patheos.com to watch as this conversation continues.
I don’t know how this happened, but somehow Stephen Colbert ended up testifying before the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law. I first became aware of this breaking news while on the elliptical machine at Planet Fitness. Unfortunately, the TV was on mute, so I Googled it.
After spending a day working with migrant field workers in Upstate New York as part of a segment for his daily program, Colbert testified in character, saying his experience was “really hard” and gave him a small understanding of “why so few Americans are clamoring to begin an exciting career as Seasonal Migrant Field Workers.”
This may be a fake-news bit for his show taken a little too far, or it may be a lead up to Colbert ’s October ‘March to Keep Fear Alive,’ which I will be attending. Some protested that Colbert’s appearance made a mockery of our Legislative system as he literally mocked our legislative system. But lighten up. We all know the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law has always been a rascally bunch.
Justin Taylor, one of the bloggers mentioned in our editorial today, posted this quote from blogger Paul Ireland, which I think goes a long way to correcting the course of the “Glenn Beck is not a real Christian” discussion we found disheartening:
In the whole discussion about Mormonism, I think we’re missing a big part of what is going on with Glenn Beck. The problem is not simply Mormonism. The problem is idolatry.
People who follow Glenn Beck may not become Mormon and reject the Trinity, but they will likely follow his Americolatry—his worship of our nation. His view of life rises and falls on the state of our country. Christians I know who follow Beck quickly get pulled into his idolatrous fervor that declares that our nation can be our savior.
I call it “Christianism,” but “Americolatry” works, too. Binding up U.S. politics with religion is bound to corrupt faith regardless of whether a Mormon or an evangelical Christian is doing it. Evangelicals, who still don’t really get this, should be far more worried about their own America-worship than they are about Glenn Beck’s theological errors.
Credit to Taylor for setting the record straight on that point.
Surely you’ve all heard by now that Sufjan Stevens has released a new EP online. This is exciting news for Sufjan fans everywhere, but I would urge you to think twice before paying the 5 dollars to download the music. It was not even 10 years ago when Islamic radical extremists destroyed the World Trade Center on September 11th, and already we’re going to support a man named “Sufjan” as if nothing happened on that tragic day?
It may sound like a good idea at first. Many believe that supporting this man’s music will help heal the wounds left by the terrorists, but come on people, we do not live in a vacuum. The fact of the matter is that this album should be released under another name, something with less Islamic connotation than “Sufjan.” Or, the album should be released in a different format. EP also brings to mind other Islamic names. Ep Shiraa. Ep Sadaar. It just hits a little too close to home.
Earlier this week, Rush Limbaugh devoted a significant chunk of his show to “a sprawling essay”:http://spectator.org/archives/2010/07/16/americas-ruling-class-and-the from The American Spectator arguing that a vast American “ruling class” runs the country and shuts out dissenting views on every major issue. It circles the wagons around its liberal self, perpetuating its own ideas and protecting members of the club from competition on merit and a true marketplace of ideas.
Up at The American Scene is the first installment in what I hope will be an occasional series about the politics of France, for the purpose of following the country’s progress in opening up to the modern world, and as a comparative study to the American issues we get so fed up with.
This one is about pension reform. What do you do with a government that can’t pay for its system and an electorate that would rather imagine the problem will go away if it’s ignored thoroughly enough?
Rand Paul, Senate candidate from Kentucky and the first official, openly Tea Party-affiliated candidate in U.S. politics, has caused quite a stir with his comments on the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And in typical fashion his opponent has seized on these remarks and will likely exploit them to his benefit throughout his campaign.
But reading through the transcript linked to above, it seems pretty clear that Paul is applying libertarian ideas in a philosophical way, not trying to overturn this landmark legislation. Even in the transcript, it’s obvious that he senses a trap, that these remarks will come back to haunt him. He gives all sorts of qualifiers, hesitating and stalling before answering the question.
What Paul, as a libertarian, likely believes is that market forces would have inspired business owners to open their restaurants to people of all races once they discovered how profitable it would be, and that, therefore, the legislation was ultimately unnecessary. Morality is a market force after all, as is evidenced by the growing fair trade industry.
But it was a gaffe, nonetheless; a result of ideological consistency trumping political reality. I think David Brooks put it well when he explained, “When you have got insurgents, when you have got outsiders, they come in, A, not knowing when to shut up, and, B, sometimes with weird ideas.” Basically, Rand Paul wasn’t thinking like a politician when he made these remarks. And that will probably come back to bite him.
I have a story, a true story, about police asking for papers, which has a great deal to say about Arizona’s highly controversial new immigration law. Before anyone makes any more assertions about showing your papers to police officers without any experience on the matter, please listen to this story.
Is the political evangelical a mythical creature? It’s become a truism and a source of angst that non-Christians see the evangelical church as too political. But Mark Chaves points to a survey that says white mainline Protestants, black Protestants and Roman Catholic are overall more politically active than white evangelicals.
Odd, given the image. Andrew Sullivan weighs in, quoting Joe Carter, who says “the typical reaction at the grassroots level to almost every political initiative in the ‘religious right’ is “lot’s of talk; little to no action.”
Let’s aside the eternally tedious “young evangelical” and look at the old evangelical. It’s true. When I really think about it, not a lot of the white conservative evangelicals I know are all that politically involved. They vote Republican, of course. They get CitizenLink emails but don’t call the Congressmen like it tells them to. I don’t know anyone who went and rallied against health care. They sympathize with Tea Partiers but have never rallied there, either. They’re pro-life, but that basically means voting Republican.
However, when I look at my own parents and their friends, the nature of their political involvement has changed.
See, D.C. burned this weekend, but Scotland and I stayed out of the flames.
While health care occupied every tiny blot of news print over the weekend, we just tried to find some untainted rays of sunshine out in Great Falls. It’s not that I don’t care about what’s happening in our great halls of government, I’m just a little cynical about the circus that the District devolved to over the weekend.
Sunday morning, driving to church, my girlfriend and I felt like we were driving through a collection of sideshows. On your right, there was Cindy Sheehan’s anti-war protest tents and mock cemetery to remember the fallen in Afghanistan and Iraq. Apparently no one bothered to tell Cindy that we have a cemetery just up the road in Arlington.
Oh, and when it comes to remembering the fallen, I have much less anger over the death of men and women who volunteered to serve in our armed forces, than the death of the myriads of babies from abortion in America, who weren’t given a chance to decide how they would live their lives.
Count up your little white markers and see which one comes out higher, Cindy.
There was a steady stream of people protesting the lack of change immigration policies that Obama seems to have conveniently forgotten.
Then there were the people angry about this little bill being pushed through the House of Representatives.
I don’t have a screed on Why the Democrats Convinced Me to Oppose the Bill, but I do have a few points on why I’m struggling to believe the narrative that emerged over the weekend.
Last night’s health care bill is without a doubt historic legislation. But historic doesn’t equal good, and all those in the thrall of victory should remember just how little this bill addresses the systemic problems in our health care industry. I’m glad it passed. Insurance reforms, however paltry, are crucial. The new spending in this bill is also paltry in comparison to what health care will already cost the government in the next decade. But the bill is based on expanding insurance, rather than abolishing it, and pretty much lets the costs keep running wild. As Noam Chomsky said this morning, it is better than what we’ve got, but it still reinforces the system’s primary ills. Obama will not, I’m afraid, be the last president faced with a health care crisis.
But for me—I guess just like for Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner and everyone else who delivered portentous absurdities about the implications of this reform—this battle was about something bigger. It was about what we are going to do with government in an age where public trust is at an all-time low and yet is desperately needed to take on the huge, deep-set problems we keep on putting off. As both a commentator and a citizen, I am looking for someone—anyone—who will defend the valid, vital role of government in a free society, and in a way, the Democrats’ almost quixotic quest for health reform felt like someone standing up for what needs to be done, no matter how thoroughly the public misunderstood and how deliberately the opposition encouraged them to do so.
I’ve been eagerly following the debate sparked by Rich Lowry and Ramesh Ponnuru’s astounding essay on American exceptionalism in the National Review. Fellow bloggers have done most of the work of de-bunking it (see Damon Linker, Conor Friedersdorf), but now it’s gone into a second round, complete with responses to the response.
As critical of my beloved country as I am, I don’t scoff at the idea that there is something special about America and its people — possibly something that has to do with the extraordinary circumstances of our founding. But at the same time, I object to the way conservatives are dishonestly deploying the argument against President Obama (see Ponnuru/Lowry) and seize on words like “patriotism” and “exceptionalism” as invitations for chest-beating and flag-waving and the censorship of anyone who dares suggest America is doing something wrong. I am hard on the United States as a nation because I have a vested interest in its material and moral success, not because, as some so-called conservatives would tell you, I want the terrorists to win.
That’s why I particularly like Matt Lee Anderson’s formulation of a proper stance toward exceptionalism. “I am interested,” he writes, “in a broader view of American exceptionalism, one that situates America not only as having a role on the world’s stage, but as having that role because we own up to our own vices within our self-understanding as a means of eradicating them.” He’s talking about abortion, which is not my issue, but it applies just as well to the myriad situations where the United States should (and in many cases has) owned up to its vices.
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