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Liberal_Jihad_Cover.jpg Forward USA

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Legislating Morality

The true intentions of Christianity are frighteningly misrepresented by liberal-socialist media.

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My fellow church congregant Durrie Monsma alerted me to an Op-Ed essay in the Washington Post written by John McCandlish Phillips.  The writer’s 18 years as a reporter and editor of the New York Times gives credibility to his observations.  Read the whole essay; the following capsules the main points.

“I have been looking at myself, and millions of my brethren, fellow evangelicals along with traditional Catholics, in a ghastly arcade mirror lately—courtesy of this newspaper [Washington Post] and the New York Times. Readers have been assured, among other dreadful things, that we are living in “a theocracy” and that this theocratic federal state has reached the dire level of—hold your breath—a “jihad.”

“In more than 50 years of direct engagement in and observation of the major news media I have never encountered anything remotely like the fear and loathing lavished on us by opinion mongers in these world-class newspapers in the past 40 days.”

“.... The opening salvo of the heavy rhetorical artillery to which I object came in on March 24, when Maureen Dowd started her column in the Times with the declaration “Oh my God, we really are in a theocracy.”.... Three days later Frank Rich, an often acute, broadly knowledgeable and witty cultural observer, sweepingly informed us that, under the effects of “the God racket” as now pursued in Washington, “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.” He went on to tell Times readers that GOP zealots in Congress and the White House have edged our country over into “a full-scale jihad.”

“.... If any “emboldened minority” is aiming to “remake America according to its dogma,” it seems to many evangelicals and Catholics that it is the vanguard wanting, say, the compact of marriage to be stretched in its historic definition to include men cohabiting with men and women with women. That is, in terms of the history of this nation, a most pronounced and revolutionary novelty.”

Mr. Phillips assessment prompts me to say that the radical element of the liberal-socialist media ? people like Robert Reich, Paul Krugman, Maureen Dowd, and Frank Rich ? either do not understand the Christian message, or they are deliberately misrepresenting it for political propaganda purposes.

Two basic points must be understood. 

First, Christianity is all about individual, voluntary changes of heart that lead people to try to live lives of consideration and love towards others.  Second, repressive legislation of morality was repeatedly condemned by Jesus Christ, whose criticism of the Pharisees of his day was their legalistic and formalistic adherence to rules, too often for public display rather than for following the spirit of God’s Word.  People do not please God just by ritualistically following rules, whether imposed by church or by the political state; they must try to become better people.

While Jesus said that he had come, not to destroy the Old Testament law of the Jews, but to fulfill it, his message was that every individual must look into his own heart, soul, and conscience to follow the two basic commandments for both Jews and Christians:  love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as you want to be loved and treated by your neighbor.

True Christianity thus is the polar opposite of the bogey-man, fanatical police state conjured by liberal polemicists.  If some extreme, fundamentalist religious group were to gain sufficient political power to impose a rigid theocracy in the United States, it would not be true Christianity, because people’s behavior would not come from personal changes of heart.

Englishmen who founded New England’s colonies, Pennsylvania, and Maryland came to these shores of their own free will, precisely to be able to worship God as they chose.  All of them were founded by believers in Christian religion, but Judaism also took root from the earliest days.

Even Puritan New England, contrary to the popular picture fabricated by liberal writers in the 20th century, was the opposite of police-state repression.  It’s true that New England Puritans, as a consequence of the horrible persecutions experienced in England under Queen Mary and the Stuart kings, had very precise ideas about the qualities of a good ruler.  Foremost among those qualities was a strong moral character and a desire to conduct colonial affairs in accordance with God’s Words in Holy Scripture. 

It’s also true that Puritan ministers had a strong voice in community affairs, not because they ran day-to-day government affairs, but simply because they preached the Gospel regularly and lengthily to the colonists.  English colonists, nonetheless, were a strong-willed and highly independent bunch who did not hesitate to take issue with any minister whose teaching strayed from their understandings of Scripture.

Every congregation had the right to dismiss an unsatisfactory minister and to select a new minister, with no hierarchical interference.  Moreover, when families were dissatisfied with their churches (which were the foundation corner-stone of each New England town), groups of families frequently left to found their own new towns and churches.  Such was the origin of my town, Stamford, Connecticut, founded in 1641 by dissident families from the Wethersfield church.

It is thus completely inaccurate to depict Puritanism as a rigid, all-controlling influence.  The opposite was, in fact the case. 

Present-day critics also overlook the fact that Puritans were all well educated and widely read, because Puritanism requires every individual, man or woman, to read the Bible for himself and to strive to follow its dictates.  This necessarily bred a very high level of individualism in the New World, just as it had made the mother-country English the most enterprising, vigorous, and successful people in Europe. 

It is no accident that American colonists flourished and that life in the colonies increasingly attracted Englishmen and other Europeans.  Life in Puritan New England and other colonies offered political freedoms that could be enjoyed to an extent found nowhere else.

Liberal polemicists like Maureen Dowd, Frank Rich, and Paul Krugman find it easy to attack a straw-man caricature of Christianity.  But it’s considerably more difficult for them to defend their preference for the post-1960s corruption, social and educational disintegration, soaring crime and drug abuse, unprecedented levels illegitimate births and single-parent families, and the rapid spread of AIDS because of unbridled sexual promiscuity.

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