Thursday, June 16, 2005

A Fundamentalist Inquisition

Susan Page reports in today's USA Today that leaders of the "Justice Sunday" movement are planning to "jointly interview Republican contenders for the 2008 presidential nomination, perhaps even endorsing one of them." A listing of those involved in the process sounds like a casting call for the social fundamentalist movement: Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council; Gary Bauer; James Dobson; Paul Weyrich; Donald Wildmon and others.

Perkins said "We'd like to try and stay together," meaning that the group would coalesce around one candidate who has managed to pass their tests (presumably this would mean toeing the right-wing line on abortion, gay rights, and judges, among other things). Bauer noted that personal interviews with the candidates were the way the group had decided to go, calling them "a very effective way to nail down where people are on cultural issues" since written questionnaires could be filled out "in ways that avoid making firm commitments."

I cannot be clearer: this stunt by Dobson & Friends amounts to little more than an evangelical [fundamentalist] inquistion. In seeking fealty from presidential candidates for their hate-mongering and extremist positions, the "Justice Sunday" crowd wants little more than a puppet president, ready to ask 'how high?' whenever they shout 'jump'. Any Republican candidate, from Frist to McCain to Romney to Hagel, seeking the support of centrists, moderates, or Democrats in the 2008 election would be better served by avoiding such a meeting altogether. The debt incurred would be repayable only at tremendous cost with the mainstream American public.

[Update: Dennis in the comments makes a very good point about my use of the word 'evangelical' above. He notes "In reality while most fundamentalist Christians are evangelicals, not all evangelicals are fundamentalists" - absolutely right. There are plenty of evangelical Christians who do not subscribe to the tenets of the "Justice Sunday" crowd, and I don't want it to seem that I'm lumping them all together. I apologize for the usage. I have changed the title of the post to "A Fundamentalist Inquisition." -- 9:01 a.m.]


At 8:54 AM, Blogger Dennis Sanders said...

This was a good post and good to know. I just have one problem; your use of the word "evangelical." It's being used with increased frequency to mean fundamentalist Christians. In reality while most fundamentalist Christians are evangelicals, not all evangelicals are fundamentalists. Case in point, the Rev. Tony Campolo. He is an evagelical Christian, but is very liberal and talks a lot about care for the poor. In fact, there are many people out there who are either politically or socially liberal, but whose theology is evangelical and have nothing to do with fundmentalists like Pat Robertson.

I say this because I came from an evangelical background myself, even though these days I'm more of a mainline Protestant. I know the evangelical world and it is much larger than the world than Robertson or Tony Perkins.

At 9:33 AM, Blogger Lone Ranger said...

You use the word "fundamentalist" as though it were a bad thing. Just out of curiosity, what fundamental teachings of Christ would you like Christians to dump?

At 10:17 AM, Blogger audrey said...

you guys are sad all you do is talk about politics all day! WTF?

At 12:08 PM, Blogger Shay said...

While I certainly disagree with this crowd on many social issues, what is wrong with folks determining which candidate most closely resembles their views and then basing their votes on it? That is their right after all, in a democracy. Liberal groups also do it, so are they 'extremist' for information gathering as well? No. We moderates must get off our asses and organize as well.

At 1:21 PM, Blogger EG said...

Two points:

1. Dobson has announced he would not support McCain in 2008. There is not reason for McCain to attempt to play nice with this group.

2. Unions have done this for years with the Democrats to get their issues front and center. Why shouldn't radical fundamentalist groups? It will be a contest of Brownback, Romney, Santorum and Frist to play to this group while ignoring the center (to their peril). Any promises made to this group will be used against the 'winner'. If these candidates are too ignorant to see this group is a vocal minority of voters, they will learn it. There are many voters who gasp when 'Dobson' and 'Falwell' are mentioned.

At 1:39 PM, Blogger JBD said...

lone ranger: Christians, including conservative Christians, may believe whatever fundamental teachings of Christ they'd like to. But there are many people in America who might not agree on the interpretation of those teachings, and that ought to be recognized.

molotov: These groups certainly have the right to hold these meetings; that's absolutely their right. I'm just suggesting that being tagged as the "endorsed candidate" of Dobson & Friends probably wouldn't help a Republican candidate gain the votes of mainstream American voters (as eg says). And yes, we moderates/centrists have to be more organized.

eg: I don't think there's any question that McCain won't 'play nice' and go along with this. Thankfully!

At 2:59 PM, Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...

I know many of these social conservative Christians want to reform politics. But in the history of mankind, religion has never reformed politics. Politics merely corrupts religion. A lot of people are so worried about the encroachment of theocracy, while I'm much more concerned with the debasement of Christianity. Christianity is not about gaining power over others but politics is. I could go on and on but I won't preach. These socially conservative Christians probably truly believe they are doing God's work, but they are only leading their flock down a badly chosen path.

It is their right, of course. And it will also be their loss.

At 4:58 PM, Blogger EG said...


Too late. The corruption has begun or continued, depending on how you look at it.

At 8:36 PM, Blogger fmodo said...

It's pretty clear that organizing in this way will have both advantages and disadvantages to the Far Right, and it's up to those of us who aren't in line with the fundamentalists' beliefs to make the disadvantages hit home.

The brilliance of their plan is that in private interviews, they can promise all kinds of extreme things behind closed doors.

Thus, their moderate and/or liberal opponents have to publicize loud and clear whatever outrageous beliefs (or better, quotations) that reveal what the likes of Dobson believe, and tie them closely to their chosen candidate in the minds of the moderate majority.

For a (long-winded) argument about how moderates and liberals could organize, see the series of posts I'm putting on my blog (the 1st of 4 parts is up right now).

Keep up the great work

At 11:26 PM, Blogger Hal said...

All I can really say is this: If the GOP fields a pro-abortion candidate in 2008, they will lose a very substantial portion of the Christian vote.

How much? Hard to say, since there's no telling what will be politically "hot" in 2008. But few conservative Christians will vote for a pro-abortion candidate, Republican, Democrat, or otherwise.

At 11:29 PM, Blogger JBD said...

hal: Name for us one politician who has a shot at the presidency in '08 (or even one who doesn't) who is "pro-abortion". "Pro-choice" and "pro-abortion" are two extremely different things.

At 7:07 PM, Blogger Hal said...

Pure rhetoric. If you'd like to substitute "pro-choice" for "pro-abortion" in my comment, fine, but my point remains the same.


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