Deposuit potentes

Part of the trouble with op-eding is the failure to distinguish “analysis” from “advocacy.” This is even worse when the analyzer has a strongly ideological bent, such as, for instance, another of liberal NPR’s underrpresented conservative think-tankers, Joseph Loconte. In today’s *New York Times* Loconte argues that the Democrats are mistaken to adopt the Republican strategy of reaching out to Christians.

What stands for argument here, however, are some cherry-picked newsy tidbits that try to establish an equivalence between the Republicans’ taliban-style theocrats (Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, among others) and the Democrats’ “progressive” or “liberal” Christians, such as James Wallis. Here is the crux of the argument for equivalence:

>”We affirm God’s vision of a good society offered to us by the prophet Isaiah,” he writes. Yet Isaiah, an agent of divine judgment living in a theocratic state, conveniently affirms every spending scheme of the Democratic Party. This is no different than the fundamentalist impulse to cite the book of Leviticus to justify laws against homosexuality.

No different! Loconte offers no argument for this other than the flimsy claim that because Isaiah lived in a theocratic state, this must mean that Wallis wants to as well. Much more indeed would be needed in any case to establish the logical equivalence of Wallis’s view with that of the Republican party. For the sake of brevity, I’ll mention two obvious ones. The reader can certainly add many more.

First, Wallis would have to make the foundational claim that Christianity grounds the American state in an exclusive way (e.g., this is a Christian country and a Christian party). One might remember a leading Republican once called Jesus his favorite *political philosopher*.

Second, Wallis should not be willing or able to support non-Christian arguments for his position. The position he affirms, or so one can even gather from Loconte’s thinly sourced piece, is that Wallis thinks people of Christian faith should not consider themselves *ipso facto* Republicans. The Democratic position, according to Wallis, is *also* Christian, perhaps even very Christian (and by the way, we gather Wallis has a more serious argument than Loconte’s uncharitable portrayal suggests), but it’s not exclusively Christian.

So just because one group of ideologically fundamentalist Christians pollutes our democracy with their theocratic intolerance, it doesn’t follow that any religiously motivated partisan politics shares the same narrow vision simply by virtue of being religious.

2 thoughts on “Deposuit potentes”

  1. the claim of isaiah’s living in a theocratic state only serves to demonstrate a pure ignorance of the actual context of isaiah’s wirtings and teachings. isaiah was an “agent of divine judgment,” however, his criticisms were directed at that very theocracy he lived under for its perversion of god’s law to suit the desires of men. moreover, the “theocracy” isaiah lived under was possibly one of the most corrupt regimes detailed in the bible. stop me when this sounds familiar. instead of hiding behind his faith and using it to further his own goals by sidling up to the leaders of the day(see: falwell, robertson, et. al.), isaiah stepped outside the circles of pwer and decried the misrepresentation of god as simply a conduit to achieving the aims of earthly ambition.

  2. During the Reign of Terror of the French Revolution, one morning’s executions began with three men: a rabbi, a Catholic priest, and a rationalist skeptic.

    The rabbi was marched up onto the platform first. There, facing the guillotine, he was asked if he had any last words. And the rabbi cried out, “I believe in the one and only true God, and He shall save me.” The executioner then positioned the rabbi below the blade, set the block above his neck, and pulled the cord to set the terrible instrument in motion. The heavy cleaver plunged downward, searing the air. But then, abruptly, it stopped with a crack just a few inches above the would-be victim’s neck. To which the rabbi said, “I told you so.”

    “It’s a miracle!” gasped the crowd. And the executioner had to agree, letting the rabbi go.

    Next in line was the priest. Asked for his final words, he declared, “I believe in Jesus Christ the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost who will rescue me in my hour of need.” The executioner then positioned this man beneath the blade. And he pulled the cord. Again the blade flew downward thump! creak! …stopping just short of its mark once more.

    “Another miracle!” sighed the disappointed crowd. And the executioner for the second time had no choice but to let the condemned go free.

    Now it was the skeptic’s turn. “What final words have you to say?” he was asked. But the skeptic didn’t hear. Staring intently at the ominous engine of death, he seemed lost. Not until the executioner poked him in the ribs and the question was asked again did he reply.

    “Oh, I see your problem,” the skeptic said pointing. “You’ve got a blockage in the gear assembly, right there!”

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