Thursday, June 26, 2008

Newsflash: God Deserts G.O.P.

This must be driving them crazy.

Kirbyjon Caldwell, the Methodist minister who introduced President Bush at the 2000 Republican convention, and who performed Jenna Bush's wedding ceremony, has started what amounts to a pro-Obama website. Technically, it's more of an anti-James Dobson site, which serves a far more useful public purpose (and is less likely to endanger his congregation's tax-exempt status). The Bush White House would once have fumed with public rage over this seeming disloyalty, but these days they probably just shrug their shoulders in despair. There isn't a lot of loyalty left over there.

There's also an article in this week's New Yorker called "The New Evangelicals," which reveals the shocking fact that not all evangelical Christians are die-hard Republicans, that some have mixed feelings about abortion rights, and that many both care about the earth and dislike war. This news, we expect, will shock few Egg readers. Indeed, we expect the only Americans who will find it truly shocking are the New Yorker's target audience of secular liberals -- and the Republican leadership.

And that is what galls us, and has galled us for years, about the GOP. They present themselves, over and over, as the Party of God, and have claimed to have a lock not only on "values voters," but on specifically Christian values. But let's be serious. Ronald Reagan was not a member of any church, and rarely attended one. George H.W. Bush sought his bishop's approval for a war in Iraq and, when that approval was not forthcoming, ignored his bishop. His son 's neocon cronies sought the Pope's approval for another war in Iraq, and when that approval was also not forthcoming, ignored the Pope. Not mention his son's bloodthirsty use of capital punishment, even against women and men with the IQs of children. Oh, and Nixon was Satan.

Meanwhile, prominent Democrats have included Gary Hart and Al Gore, both former seminarians; George Stephanopoulos, who almost followed his father into the priesthood; and Jimmy Carter, whose Southern Baptist evangelicalism got him teased by sophisticates for admitting to adultery in his heart, but also earned him that Nobel Prize. Bill Clinton, another Southern Baptist, was practically a televangelist (big hair, adultery, fried food). More to the point, in recent years it has been Democrats who consistently push government toward the few social policies that Jesus actually articulated -- feeding the hungry, healing the sick, making peace rather than war. (And yes, okay, paying taxes).

Nonetheless, there are surely GOP leaders who feel betrayed and, worse, bewildered these days. They have gotten so much mileage, over so many years, out of the emotional issue of abortion, that they had simply assumed that those "values voters" were their forever. This is a sign of their own shallow grasp of Christianity, or of Christians. It never occurred to them that there might be other values than the ones they talked about. Worse yet, it never occurred to them that evangelical voters might have a loyalty which was far, far deeper than any passing attachment to a political party.

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