Saturday, April 28, 2012

Also Attending Was Rev. Second Banana

So who had the undivided attention of the most high God this afternoon at the baptism of Sierra Virginia Schwarz? Hat tip to her parents, Erin and Todd, for this photo.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Preparing To Launch

How about that beak action? Mom's feeding them nectar and arthropods.

RX: "RN"

When Dick Cheney had his first heart attack in 1978, he was in the midst of his first campaign for Congress. He recuperated by bench-pressing 37's 1013-page autobiography, RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon, which was evidently prescribed by Nixon's editorial assistant, Frank Gannon. N.C. Aizenman reports:
Cheney said he asked the internist who was caring for him — there were no practicing cardiologists in Wyoming at the time — whether he would have to give up politics for a less demanding line of work.
“He said, ‘Aw hell, Dick, hard work never killed anybody,’ ” Cheney recalled.
Still, the doctor did prescribe some major lifestyle changes for Cheney — who had been smoking two to three packs a day as President Gerald Ford’s chief of staff.
He took a month-long rest, during which he said he “sat under a tree” reading an advance copy of President Richard Nixon’s biography, which a friend had helped ghost write, while his wife, Lynn, campaigned on his behalf.

You Can Always Count On The Nixon Guy

And woman. His former aide, Monica Crowley, on Sandra Fluke's engagement. After a stir, Crowley apologized.

Poached Jobs Are The Best Kind

Macroeconomist Garett Jones says the Obama administration would've done a better job using stimulus money to create jobs that people could've filled quickly.

Making Your Haj To Israel

The Palestinians are urging more Muslim pilgrims to come to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, which Arabs have avoided since Israel won the territory in the 1967 war.

Who Will Be The GDP President?

Republicans are hammering President Obama over the economy's anemic 2.2% annual growth rate, not that they necessarily have any better ideas. Donald Trump advocates more domestic energy production (although drilling is through the roof under Obama) and punishing China with a 25% trade tariff, even though protectionism causes depressions. The Economist says steady in the buggy:
During the first three years after the 1981-82 recession, the economy grew above 3% in 11 of 12 quarters and at greater than 5% in 7 of 12. Eleven quarters into this recovery, the economy has managed 3% or better only four times and has yet to reach 4%. But America's underlying fundamentals look increasingly strong. A gridlocked Congress and an inflation-averse Federal Reserve may try to gum up the works. But this morning's disappointing number is by no means a reason for despair.
Trump's right that stronger economic growth cures countless ills -- unemployment, deficits, debt, even Social Security and Medicare's woes. There would be less social and cultural anxiety as well. I plan to vote for the GDP president. Who will he be?

What Nixon Knew (Or Probably Didn't)

Ron Rosenbaum argues that a tape-recorded conversation on June 20, 1972 between Richard Nixon and his chief of staff, Bob Haldeman, suggests strongly that Nixon ordered the Watergate break-in (or at least knew exactly why it occurred):
[Nixon's] “public line” [that he was baffled why anyone would break into Democratic headquarters] was a public lie. He had an explicit reason to believe there was damaging information about him in Larry O'Brien's office and his pooh-poohing of Watergate as a target shows him lying about that to exculpate himself.

This interpretation is supported by Nixon’s exchange with his No. 2, H. R. Haldeman. Who says, on that tape, after Nixon says there would be no reason to go into the Watergate: “Except for the financial thing.” The financial thing! The Hughes-Rebozo $100,000 bribe and the question of whether O’Brien learned of it and planned to go public with it which could have ended Nixon’s presidency right there. (O’Brien later said he didn’t know about the Hughes-Nixon payoff, but Nixon didn’t know he didn’t know and was obsessed with finding out if he did.)
“Yes I suppose,” says Nixon, in reply to Haldeman's suggesting "the financial thing" was a motive.
In February 2008, in response to an earlier iteration of Rosenbaum's argument, I offered a more innocent explanation of the same conversation:
Here’s what Rosenbaum identifies as the key exchange:

NIXON: My God, the committee isn’t worth bugging, in my opinion. That’s my public line.

HALDEMAN: Except for this financial thing. They thought they had something going on that.

NIXON: Yes, I suppose.

Rosenbaum argues that Haldeman means that “they,” the burglars, had been after financial intelligence on the activities of DNC chairman Larry O’Brien. Mr. Nixon’s off-handed acquiescence would show that he must’ve known why the burglars had gone in all along. But it’s hard to argue that Haldeman is talking about the burglars or O’Brien when we look at the whole conversation as well as Haldeman’s next comment, which Rosenbaum doesn’t address:

HALDEMAN: But I asked the question: If we were going to all that trouble, why in the world would we pick the Democratic National Committee to do it to? It’s the least fruitful source–
A few moments before, Haldeman had been talking about what “they,” meaning reporters, had been saying about burglar E. Howard Hunt and his check for $690 found in the possession of another burglar. So Mr. Nixon and Haldeman were actually talking about what “they,” the press, were saying about Hunt’s finances. When Mr. Nixon says his public line is going to be that the Watergate wasn’t worth bugging, Haldeman gently implies that the President’s line is bit too absolutist since “they,” the reporters, “thought they had something going on [this financial thing]” — that is, the seeming financial link between the burglars and Hunt, whose association with the White House had already been established. Bugging the Watergate was obviously worth Hunt’s money. Then Haldeman alludes to conversations he’s been having with others about the silliness of bugging the Watergate. Spinning gears? Certainly. Smoking gun? Seemingly not.

A Message From Bishop Bruno

Jon Bruno, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles and Rector of St. John's Episcopal Church and School, sent this letter to the Diocese on Thursday afternoon:
My dear friends,

As we move close to the 12th anniversary of my consecration on April 29, I am looking forward to the future, yet any time we make too many plans, we have to wait and listen for God.

Having had what I thought was a bout of pneumonia since the House of Bishops last met in March, I have gone back into the hospital to determine what this nagging problem has been. With the great assistance of Dr. David Cannom of Los Angeles Cardiology Associates, Dr. Glenn Hatfield of The Medical Group, Dr. Lasika Senevirante of the Los Angeles Cancer Network, and the staff of Good Samaritan Hospital, I have discovered that this nagging problem is more than I thought it was. But I have been convinced by Dr. Cannom and Dr. Senevirante that I am too stubborn to let this go by the wayside, so we will start immediately to begin aggressive treatment for Acute Monocytic Leukemia (AML M5).

I don't do anything lightly, and I am never surprised that when God calls me, it is to do more than I asked or thought. The doctors are of a mind that we can beat this, but I want to be honest with you: I am frightened. Not unlike the amputation, or the metabolic staph infection (MRSA) that I experienced, or the court cases, a few challenges have come across our path.

I want you folks to be as positive as you can be, and I need your prayers and support at this time. I want you to know that I have raised all of these concerns with my colleague Bishops, Diane Jardine Bruce and Mary Douglas Glasspool.

I will continue to serve as Bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles with the able assistance of the Bishops Suffragan and the Executive Staff. I, together with Bishops Bruce and Glasspool, Canon David Tumilty, the Rev. Canon Joanna Satorius and Canon Robert Williams, will continue to be the management team of the Diocese.

This will require some changes for us to continue to serve you in the life of this Diocese, and we will remain faithful. We will not hold things back from you, and we will remain in regular communication.

If it should be that my health does take a turn for the worse, I will do what is needed to accomplish the election of the next Diocesan Bishop. I have notified Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, Bishop Stacy Sauls, and the Rev. Canon Chuck Robertson, and they have all assured me that they will do all they can to be of assistance.

I want to assure you all of the depth of love, respect and grace that I feel from this Diocese each day of my life. My love to you, my appreciation, and forever my dedication.

Yours in Christ,

+ J. Jon Bruno
Sixth Bishop of Los Angeles

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Public Squares

David Paul Kuhn:
In 1972, a young aide named Patrick Buchanan suggested that Richard Nixon frame the presidential campaign as "square America" vs. "radical America." The square won 49 states.
Pundits tend to describe Mitt Romney's vanilla disposition as a liability. The Washington Post recently asked, "Why does Mitt Romney seem so stiff?" But there's a more practical question: How much does it matter? Stiffs can become president, even in this television age....
Back in 1972, Nixon didn’t merely campaign for “square America.” He was intrinsically square. His second-grade teacher recalled that little Dick Nixon came to school every day wearing a white starched shirt and long sleeves. That square went on to win one of the largest landslides in American history....
It’s a mistake to equate Romney’s square demeanor with his plutocratic demeanor. The latter is a serious problem. Nixon exuded stiff. But it was working stiff. And Nixon brilliantly understood the power of grunt imagery. “I got a couple of letters of commendation. But I was just there when the bombs were falling,” he said of his wartime service during his Checkers speech.
Romney could never give that speech. “I keep waiting for Mitt to say, ‘Pardon me, do you have any Grey Poupon?’ ” Rick Perry joked at the Gridiron dinner.

From Red Meat To Arugula

The wise old GOP groundhogs crawl out of their burrows, scratch their eyes, and advise the candidate who just spent a long winter beating seven conservative challengers please to tone it down and wax positive and constructive for the general election. Everyone knows Mitt Romney can't win without a move to the center. And yet Michael Barbaro reports in the New York Times:
The campaign shows no immediate sign of shifting from attack mode, precisely the approach some supporters want him to maintain. Terry Branstad, the Republican governor of Iowa, said Mr. Obama was the candidate running the negative campaign. “He is spending his time personally attacking Romney,” said Mr. Branstad, who encouraged Mr. Romney to keep highlighting the president’s shortcomings. 
I've always had the feeling that Romney's over-aggressiveness toward Barack Obama was an attempt to obscure their glaring similarities. They're smart and temperamentally reserved, and they're both pragmatists, at least if you go by Romney's record as Massachusetts governor, which is not unlike Obama's as president. Since Romney couldn't very well proclaim his conservative bona fides, he compensated with extra servings of red meat. His campaign may be delaying the big reveal of its general election strategy because it knows conservatives won't like what they're served instead.

Benny Chill

Israel's military chief of staff believes Iran's leaders are rational and won't risk annihilation by building a nuclear weapon.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The "Patriarchal Bargain"

When it comes to women's rights in Arab and Muslim societies, Max Fisher argues that Mona Eltahawy paints with too broad a brush:
If that misogyny is so innately Arab, why is there such wide variance between Arab societies? Why did Egypt's hateful "they" elect only 2 percent women to its post-revolutionary legislature, while Tunisia's hateful "they" elected 27 percent, far short of half but still significantly more than America's 17 percent? Why are so many misogynist Arab practices as or more common in the non-Arab societies of sub-Saharan Africa or South Asia? After all, nearly every society in history has struggled with sexism, and maybe still is. Just in the U.S., for example, women could not vote until 1920; even today, their access to basic reproductive health care is backsliding. We don't think about this as an issue of American men, white men, or Christian men innately and irreducibly hating women. Why, then, should we be so ready to believe it about Arab Muslims?
And this:
Some of the most important architects of institutionalized Arab misogyny weren't actually Arab. They were Turkish -- or, as they called themselves at the time, Ottoman -- British, and French. These foreigners ruled Arabs for centuries, twisting the cultures to accommodate their dominance. One of their favorite tricks was to buy the submission of men by offering them absolute power over women. The foreign overlords ruled the public sphere, local men ruled the private sphere, and women got nothing; academic Deniz Kandiyoti called this the "patriarchal bargain." Colonial powers employed it in the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, and in South Asia, promoting misogynist ideas and misogynist men who might have otherwise stayed on the margins, slowly but surely ingraining these ideas into the societies.
And finally:
The fact that feminism is broadly (and wrongly) considered a Western idea has made it tougher for proponents. After centuries of Western colonialism, bombings, invasions, and occupation, Arab men can dismiss the calls for gender equality as just another form of imposition, insisting that Arab culture does it differently. The louder our calls for gender equality get, the easier they are to wave away. 
So Arab men, like men everywhere, prefer being in charge. They justify their behavior by means of the literal dictates of medieval Islam and the traditions they learned from colonial oppressors. If western critics are too aggressive about pointing out that it is wrong to keep women down, the men will complain that an imperialistic foreigner is trying to dictate to them, giving them further warrant to dictate to women.

The problem with this kind of cultural and historical argument is that an oppressive class often comes to power for complex reasons and then offers equally elaborate justifications for maintaining the status quo. When the outside world begins to raise the issue and the ante, the oppressor can get away with playing the victim of the foreign interloper for a while, but not forever. No arguments such as Fisher's are considered acceptable anymore when it comes to justifying or defending, for instance, slavery in the American south or South Africa apartheid.

Fisher also objects to the use of the word "hate" to describe centuries of misogyny. Did white South Africans and U.S. southerners hate blacks? What do you call generations of relentless abuse? "Hate" came naturally enough to those opposing California's Prop. 8, which banned gay marriage. But when it comes to the oppression of women, Fisher claims, we still have to walk on eggshells. He's right that misogyny is part of being human. Like its near relation, homophobia, it seems to come from a darker recess of our nature than racism does. But eventually, even Arab women -- women everywhere -- will say, "No more."

Tapes We Can't Burn

Southern Baptist seminary dean Russell D. Moore writes that we are all Chuck Colson:
Colson had every reason to be ashamed. Virtually every word he spoke in the Nixon White House was recorded and transcribed, and laid open for everyone from the House Judiciary Committee to his next-door neighbors to see. His own words proved him to be ruthless, manipulative, and, at times, craven. But all of our words are transcribed, the Bible tells us. They are embedded in a conscience that points us toward a Judgment Day in which every idle word and thought is revealed, and all is laid bare (Rom. 2:15-16). Like Nixon and his cronies, we want to obstruct that justice. If only we could erase the "tapes," and sear over our consciences, we reason, everything will be okay. In trying to win the campaign of our own attempts at self-justification, we've rebelled against a higher authority than the United States Constitution. We've broken into temples more sacred than the Watergate Hotel.

A generation ago, the southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd sang back to a culture basking in the glory of a repudiated and humiliated Nixon White House. They sang, "Now Watergate does not bother me; Does your conscience bother you? Tell the truth." That's still the question.
Hat tip to Marylou Harding

"Oh My Sweet Carolina," Ryan Adams

May you one day carry me home. Performing with Laura Marling at Abbey Road Studios in London in 2011.

Mrs. Patti's And Al Pacino's Birthday Sky

The heavens over St. John's Church and School this morning as we pray for healing for our bishop and rector, Jon Bruno, who is hospitalized with an infection, and in thanksgiving for the birthday of our chaplain and youth group leader, Patti Peebles

Arab Nations' "Hatred Of Women"

From Mona Eltahawy's searing article in Foreign Policy on what amounts to region-wide gender apartheid:
How much does Saudi Arabia hate women? So much so that 15 girls died in a school fire in Mecca in 2002, after "morality police" barred them from fleeing the burning building -- and kept firefighters from rescuing them -- because the girls were not wearing headscarves and cloaks required in public. And nothing happened. No one was put on trial. Parents were silenced. The only concession to the horror was that girls' education was quietly taken away by then-Crown Prince Abdullah from the Salafi zealots, who have nonetheless managed to retain their vise-like grip on the kingdom's education system writ large.
This, however, is no mere Saudi phenomenon, no hateful curiosity in the rich, isolated desert. The Islamist hatred of women burns brightly across the region -- now more than ever.

"As If" Are The Operative Words

Richard A. Oppel, Jr. caught up with the Gingrich campaign before his loss in Delaware and four other states yesterday:
[Gingrich] has been collecting – and publicizing – endorsements as if it were the early days of the Iowa campaign, promoting support from county Republican leaders in Delaware at a point when even big-name national Republican leaders’ throwing their support to Mr. Romney barely makes the news anymore.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"Rebels," Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers

Y'all watch this here. Tom Petty broke his hand having a temper tantrum during the recording of the studio version of the song in 1984. "Rebels" is also remarkable as an example, along with the Band's "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," of how white rock stars could indulge in nostalgia for the Confederacy (though certainly not for slavery) with evident impunity. I love this live version because of the horns at 3:55, twinned with Mike Campbell's guitar. I'm a sucker for a horn section.

"Accepting A Legitimate Islamism"

In "Nixon goes to China" spirit, the editors of the National Interest, published by the former Nixon Center, promote Middle East realpolitik:
Without ceding any ground to al-Qaeda or other militant groups, the United States will either have to deal constructively with organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood, or it will find itself increasingly marginalized and irrelevant in the region.

Prayers Sought For Bishop Jon Bruno

Bishop Suffragan Mary Douglas Glasspool wrote as follows on Tuesday afternoon to members of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles:

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Please keep Bishop Jon Bruno in your prayers.

Bishop Jon is undergoing medical treatment and testing in the hospital at this time to address an infection that has persisted after his diagnosis last month with pneumonia.

He is in good spirits and sends his love to all, and his appreciation for our ongoing prayers that he first requested at the March meeting of Diocesan Council.

Until further notice, Bishop Jon and Mary both ask for no visits, calls or flowers at this time as Bishop Jon must have complete rest in order to focus on his recovery. That said, cards addressed to home or office are most welcome.

Appointments and visitations in the coming weeks will, of necessity, be rescheduled by Ms. Gail Urquidi, executive assistant in the Bishop's Office. We will keep you informed of Bishop Jon's progress while asking that you respect his privacy.

Bishop Diane Jardine Bruce, who is traveling in China at the moment, joins me in thanking you for your prayers and support of Bishop Jon. Bishop Diane will return from her travels in early May, and both of us will be present at Clergy Conference May 7-9.

Heavenly Father, giver of life and health: Comfort and relieve your servant, Jon, and give your power of healing to those who minister to his needs, that he may be strengthened and have confidence in your loving care, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever. Amen.

God's Peace to All,

+ Mary D. Glasspool
Bishop Suffragan

Hatless But Hardly Hitless

Babe Ruth with his wife, Clare, and Kate Smith (lower left) at the first game of the 1936 World Series at the Polo Grounds in New York City. From a selection of photos recently opened by the city's Department of Records. Hat tip to BuzzFeed for these ten.

Dems, GOP Join In Sucessful Immigration Plan

It was easy. They just screwed up the economy.

Buff And Holy

The Rev. Dr. Amy Richter, bodybuilder and Episcopal priest, reflects on the learning-edge issue of women's ordination from the perspective of spirit, head, and body:
[S]omehow, despite our belief that both sexes can serve the church, it seems there’s still something unnerving about a priest who is a woman. It has to do with having a woman’s body.

A parishioner told me that he thought I was a great priest, but that if I became pregnant, it would be too weird for him to see me at the altar. Merely holding hands with my husband, even when I am not in clerical clothes, has elicited the comment “Can you do that? I mean, in public?” Another parishioner told me I was too petite to be a priest. I’m 5-10. I have never been called “petite.” I think he meant “female.”

What about when a priest wears a bikini? What if she complicates the picture by having sizable biceps or well-defined lats? Can “buff” and “holy” go together? “Ripped” and “reverend”? If the “reverend” is a woman?

Hat tip to Tom Tierney

The Severity Of Our Disengagement

Defending himself against Bill O'Reilly's wacky accusation that he's a communist, Robert Reich says Fox News and their ilk are burying the nation in "doo-doo" -- an unintentional allusion to the late Seamus Romney, one assumes, since Reich adds:

The 2012 election doesn't seem likely to clarify any issue. At this moment the candidates and their surrogates are debating the treatment of dogs.

Across the nation, conservatives right-wingers and liberal or progressive lefties have stopped debating their respective views, or even listening to anyone they disagree with. They just find broadcasters and bloggers who confirm their views.

We're even sorting by belief according to where we live. Today your neighbors are more likely to agree with your politics than disagree. We've settled into like-minded enclaves where we don't need to think because everyone we meet confirms what we assume we already know.

It's not that the nation is more polarized than it's been in the past. America has been through searing conflicts, some within the living memories of most of us. The communist witch-hunts of the 1950s were followed by the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, battles over women's reproductive rights and gay marriage.

What makes America's current polarization remarkable isn't the severity of our disagreements but our utter lack of engagement debating them.

An Opportune Time For Reflection

Christians on the right (it's the National Review web site, after all) praise the late Chuck Colson as enthusiastically as progressives denounce him. When we Christians are so polarized, I wonder who wins.

We're Grandparents

Two chicks (is that what you call baby hummingbirds?) hatched about ten days ago. (We noticed the eggs in late March.) You can see a red beak resting on the top edge of the nest. In Kathy's and my inexpert estimation, both are doing fine, as is the original helicopter mom.

His New Life And Ours

Theologian John Cobb explains why Christianity is all about Easter:
What is historically indubitable is that shortly after Jesus death some of Jesus followers were re-energized and ready to carry on Jesus’ work even if led to their deaths. These disciples said that Jesus had come to them and shown them that he was alive. They said that he was “resurrected.” They were joined by one we know as Paul, who had been their enemy, but who had a vision of Jesus alive in heavenly glory and calling him to his service. Paul taught that the resurrected Jesus had a “spiritual” body. Other believers insisted that the Jesus who came to them after his crucifixion was a fully physical being, although he appeared and disappeared in quite extraordinary ways.

If Jesus had not appeared to his followers and to Paul, his impact in human history would have been minor. We who live out of our memories of Jesus today, would know nothing about him. So, for us who follow him, Easter is the most important of our celebrations. Jesus lives on in our imaginations, our memories, and our hopes because his new life after his death gave new life to his followers. The image of “death and resurrection” is at the heart of Christian faith.

Unaware In Delaware

Newt Gingrich persists.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Russia's Our Foe, Except For That NATO Base

Writing at the National Interest, published by the former Nixon Center, Doug Bandow critiques Mitt Romney's reckless rhetoric on Russia.

Cultural Warfare By Other Means

Not all people of faith are praising Chuck Colson.

The Bad Boys Of Watergate

While Chuck Colson didn't apologize to Daniel Ellsberg, he did to John Dean. Dean writes:
While there is little Chuck and I agreed about politically, we have had a long friendship based on mutual respect. While together in the custody of the U.S. Marshals at a safe house at Fort Holabird, Maryland, Chuck and I set aside our difference. He admitted he had tried to destroy me to defend Richard Nixon, and apologized. Begrudgingly he said that no one could have blown up the Watergate cover up better while taking his onslaught than yours truly, right down to figuring out that Nixon had taped us all. From Chuck, that was a compliment for there was a time when he was very good at destroying people.
Maybe that helps explain why he was good at the reverse, and helping broken people find a new life in the teachings of the Bible.
It's appropriate, in a way, that Watergate's bad boys found one another. Many of Nixon's other White House operatives despised Colson, who hired Watergate burglar E. Howard Hunt, and Dean, who masterminded the coverup. These critics liked to say that the pair played to Nixon's dark side, while they would've been wise enough not to follow his most noxious orders. Such wisdom seems to have been scarcer than they now remember. Chief of staff Bob Haldeman (shown above at the Nixon library many years ago with my godson, Harry Elliott, and me and at right with Nixon) always claimed that his meticulous staff structure would've prevented Watergate. Yet Haldeman's own factotums, on his instructions, sicced the FBI on journalists, launched dirty tricks, and counted Jews in the federal government.

Historians, journalists, Congress, and federal archivists have always categorized these abuses of government power under the rubric of Watergate. In their unsuccessful war during 2009-11 against former Nixon library director Tim Naftali, the Haldeman acolytes now in control of Nixon's foundation (aided by a sitting U.S. senator, former White House operative Lamar Alexander) tried to reduce Watergate to a somewhat mysterious, botched burglary and brief coverup. Their definition (not adopted by Naftali and the National Archives) would have pinned the worst raps on Colson, Dean, and of course Nixon (whom history blames most of all) while letting Haldeman and his loyalists off the hook. It helps you understand why Naftali called it the Haldeman foundation.

No Salaam Over Salam

Is Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas angry with his prime minister for snubbing Bibi last week?

This Isn't China. Is It?

Former GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman compares the party to the remaining communist monolith and jokingly blames his wife for insisting that he hew to his relatively moderate positions during his campaign. His daughter discloses that he won't be stumping for Mitt Romney.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

All About Sex After All

Ed Kilgore believes evangelical Christians prefer Mormon to mainline:
[A]ny evangelical distrust of Mormon theology pales beside the evangelical distrust of mainstream Protestantism—which happens to be the strand of Christianity that Barack Obama belongs to. This attitude can be seen in Rick Santorum’s dismissal of mainline U.S. Protestants as “gone from the world of Christianity”—a comment from 2008 that came to light during the heat of this year’s primary season. While Santorum’s statement was widely criticized, it’s a broadly held, even axiomatic, view for many conservative evangelicals and Catholics. Indeed, conservative minorities in the mainline denominations (most notably Episcopalians) have become accustomed to accusing mainline leaders of heresy and apostasy.

Sure, conservative Christians would have preferred a candidate with a less complicated and controversial belief system than Mitt Romney’s. But...their doubts about Romney probably owe more to the conservative anxiety about his slipperiness than to any particular concerns about the LDS. And in the end...the only religious test that matters is whether you support the “Biblical values” of hostility to feminists, gays, and liberal Protestants like the president.
Conservative Christians have frequently insisted that their primary worry is not the mainline church's policies toward women, gays, and lesbians but its undependable orthodoxy when it comes to such matters as the creeds, Biblical inerrancy, and the bodily resurrection of Christ. If you believe, as I do, that Jesus rose from dead without beaming down in north America (as the LDS teaches he did) and yet that the church needn't be confined by first-century social mores as expressed in the New Testament, the self-styled orthodox insist that I'm not one of them. But if you can support someone who thinks the Bible has been superseded by the Book of Mormon just because you think his views on women and gays coincide with yours, you are far more interested in public policy outcomes than Christian orthodoxy. For you, it really is all about sex.

Modified Limited Contrition

Chuck Colson went to jail after pleading guilty to one felony count related to Nixon administration efforts to discredit Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers to the newspapers. The AP reports that Colson's amends were not extended to all his Watergate adversaries:
Ellsberg, for his part, said in an interview that Colson never apologized to him and did not respond to several efforts Ellsberg made over the years to get in touch with him. Ellsberg said he still believes that Colson's guilty plea was not a matter of contrition so much as an effort to head off even more serious allegations that Colson had sought to hire thugs to administer a beating against Ellsberg — an allegation that Colson states in his book was believed by prosecutors despite his denial.

"I have no reason to doubt his evangelism," Ellsberg said of Colson. "But I don't think he felt any kind of regret" for what he had done, except remorse that he had been ineffective and got caught.
Colson's conversion notwithstanding, I'm sure he never changed his basic outlook on Ellsberg or his actions.

Chuck Colson's Redirected Zeal

Mark Ellis on the conversion experience of Chuck Colson, who died Saturday:
[A]s Colson awaited arrest and prosecution for his Watergate involvement, Tom Phillips, then president of Raytheon, invited Colson to his home and witnessed to him about Jesus Christ.

“I left his house that night shaken by the words he had read from C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity about pride,” Colson wrote in 2008. “It felt as if Lewis were writing about me, former Marine captain, Special Counsel to the President of the United States, now in the midst of the Watergate scandal. I had an overwhelming sense that I was unclean.”

After Colson left Philips, he got into his car, but couldn’t drive away. The conviction of the Holy Spirit came upon him and he began to weep, “I couldn’t (drive). I was crying too hard – and I was not one to ever cry.” “I spent an hour calling out to God. I did not even know the right words. I simply knew that I wanted Him. And I knew for certain that the God who created the universe heard my cry.”

At that pivotal moment, Colson was born again. “From the next morning to this day, I have never looked back. I can honestly say that the worst day of the last 35 years has been better than the best days of the 41 years that preceded it. That’s a pretty bold statement, given my time in prison, three major surgeries, and two kids with cancer at the same time, but it is absolutely true.”

The former counselor to the most powerful man on earth began to serve the King above every earthly king, which gave Colson’s life renewed purpose. From that day forward, he knew he belonged to Christ and he was “on earth to advance His Kingdom.”
And that he did, as a model of repentance and a prison ministry innovator whose work blessed the lives of tens of thousands of convicts and their families. Some were skeptical about the sincerity of his conversion, possibly because he seemed no less intensely results-driven than he'd been in politics. But grace had transformed Colson's priorities, not his temperament. Like St. Paul after he'd forsaken his persecution of Christians in favor of church-building, Colson was as zealous for Christ as he had been for Nixon. He even took on some of the trappings of the executive. When we hosted a Prison Fellowship donor event at the Nixon library, smooth-talking Colson aides arrived a day early wearing  blue blazers and PF lapel pins. They were as focused on pulling off a well-choreographed event for the boss as Nixon's factotums had been back in the day -- all the advance-man basics such as making sure the microphone was properly positioned and the drinking water in place, holding room properly arranged, and schedule double-checked.

When I was ordained as an Episcopal priest in 2004, Colson sent me a Bible with a gracious inscription and called to offer congratulations and blessings. He said he was sure I'd be a good evangelical preacher. While I sent him some sermons, I can't recall if he responded. I assume he found my big-tent Anglicanism to be a bit pallid. He and my church definitely differed on whether gay and lesbian people should be afforded full sacramental status. In one of his last columns, he continued to assert that homosexual relations were inherently sinful. Giving in to Nixonian hyperbole for old time's sake, he vowed not to be cowed into silence by those writing press releases for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, preposterously implying that its criticism of his statements about homosexuality was comparable to his being on an IRA hit list or receiving death threat during Watergate.

When he called in 2004, Colson told me that he was pleased that another Nixon associate had joined the ranks of the converted or ordained -- meaning himself, another Watergate figure, Jeb Magruder, who became a Presbyterian minister, and Jonathan Aitken, a disgraced British politician who was Nixon's friend and biographer and later wrote a book about Colson. (During his celebrated visit to the Nixon library in 2009, John Dean asked Kathy to be sure to tell me that he'd been an Episcopal acolyte.) I chose not to say that, of this quartet of Nixon Christian soldiers, I was the only one who hadn't been in the slammer. My call to ordained ministry hadn't to do with being loyal to Nixon to the point of criminality but to a considerable extent with being viewed as disloyal by members of his family.

Give rest, O Christ, to your servant with your saints, where sorrow and pain are no more, neither sighing, but life everlasting.

Hat tip to Carolyn Dennington