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Monday, March 28, 2005

A Liberal Scourges the Judeo-Christian Tradition

Sparks flying in the clash between secularism and spiritual religion.

Frank Rich’s opinion column, published today in the New York Times, leaves no room for ambiguity.  He is not favorably impressed by our Judeo-Christian heritage.

The God Racket, From DeMille to DeLay, unfortunately, is on the mark in skewering the hypocrisy that too often infects public professions of Christian morality.  Jesus denounced the Pharisees for their public shows of devotion, while their hearts had little room for expressing God’s love toward others.  However much Mr. Rich’s scornful language bites, he isn’t altogether wrong in his judgments.

His assessments go beyond legitimate criticism in painting a picture of Christianity as an aggressive and hypocritical religion.  Christianity certainly shouldn’t be as he describes it.  Speaking of the perennial TV showing of Cecil B. DeMille’s movie “The Ten Commandments” in the Easter season, Mr. Rich writes:

“At a time when government, culture, science, medicine and the rule of law are all under threat from an emboldened religious minority out to remake America according to its dogma, the half-forgotten show business history of “The Ten Commandments” provides a telling back story….  it’s clear that one principle, so firmly upheld by DeMille, has remained inviolate no matter what the courts have to say: American moguls, snake-oil salesmen and politicians looking to score riches or power will stop at little if they feel it is in their interests to exploit God to achieve those ends. While sometimes God racketeers are guilty of the relatively minor sin of bad taste - witness the crucifixion-nail jewelry licensed by Mel Gibson - sometimes we get the demagoguery of Father Coughlin or the big-time cons of Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker.

“The religio-hucksterism surrounding the Schiavo case makes DeMille’s Hollywood crusades look like amateur night…... The president was not about to be outpreached by these saps. The same Mr. Bush who couldn’t be bothered to interrupt his vacation during the darkening summer of 2001, not even when he received a briefing titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.,” flew from his Crawford ranch to Washington to sign Congress’s Schiavo bill into law.”

If Mr. Rich is correct that Christian concern about morality has degenerated into nothing more than political and commercial hucksterism, then there is no hope for the future of the United States.

Mr. Rich complains self-righteously that Christians have been pressuring the media and the schools to soft-pedal secularity.  “... That bullying, stoked by politicians in power, has become omnipresent, leading television stations to practice self-censorship and high school teachers to avoid mentioning “the E word,” evolution, in their classrooms, lest they arouse fundamentalist rancor.”

We have seen abundant uses of political and legal force to push Judeo-Christian values out of public and educational life.  The few efforts by religious conservatives to which Mr. Rich alludes pale into insignificance compared to the systematic oppression of PC thought police in academia and liberal judges egged on by the ACLU.

Nonetheless, let’s not be guilty of descending to the level of militant liberal-socialist groups.  It’s up to us to remain faithful to what Jesus taught: Christianity is not to be spread to the world via the blunt instruments of political or judicial force, but via the loving benevolence of individuals who are trying to be lights of decent conduct that will attract non-believers.  While we must denounce secularity, we can do so in reasonable and factual terms.  The historical record abundantly demonstrates the fecklessness of liberal-socialism, without the need to resort, as Mr. Rich does, to the typical liberal ad hominem attack or retorting “so’s your old man.”

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