Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Antichrist? But Where's He On The Life Issue?

Rick Perlstein argues that Christian evangelicals are already getting over their worries about an LDS nominee and president:
[Their critical language was] strikingly similar to the way they characterized Catholics generations ago. As the Baptist college president quoted by the [New York] Times put it, they fear "the Mormon Church will use [Romney’s] position around the world as a calling card for legitimizing their church and proselytizing people." But they're getting over it. Here is Billy Graham's much more political son Franklin, for instance, speaking in December on the air of Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network: "the fact that he is a Mormon doesn’t bother me at all."

That's the way cultural change works in America: the rest of us discard a prejudice that the right still clings to; in the fullness of time, the right comes around too, deploying clever rationalizations to forget they ever bore the prejudice in the first place.
But it's not exactly a matter of discarding religious prejudice. The faithful have just realized that the purpose of political activism is obtaining policy outcomes. Perlstein notes the antipathy to Barack Obama shared by evangelicals and conservative Roman Catholics and shows how they first linked up over abortion and gay rights. Romney will probably win them if they're sure he's not squishy on social issues. But the most theologically conservative won't ever get over his religion. Untold thousands are saying to themselves even as they vote for Mitt: "Nice guy. Too bad he's going to hell."

Even more interesting than the demons of religious prejudice that conservative evangelicals and their political toadies are keeping under wraps for politics' sake are the ones they're proudly taking out for a walk. In 2010 Newt Gingrich and others in and out of government made constitutional history by arguing that U.S. citizens who were Muslims should not be permitted to worship as they choose within a certain distance of the World Trade Center. Just as insidious is the implicit conservative evangelical proposition that mainline Christians --such as Obama, for instance -- aren't Christian at all.

No comments: