James Joyner at my occasional alternative haunt, OTB, discusses Mike Huckabee’s failure to gain much traction on the campaign trail with the Christian right’s leaders—who have seemed to prefer candidates like Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani—despite his impeccable Christian credentials, a topic we ended up discussing in part during Friday’s southern politics class (as sort of an offshoot of our discussion about what the off-year elections mean for the GOP in the south).
I think much of Huckabee’s problem dates back to a conscious decision by the evangelical movement around 30 years ago. In 1976, evangelical Christians came out for “one of their own”—Jimmy Carter—but four years of Carter’s rule convinced evangelicals that having a fellow devout Christian in the White House was much less important than the policies the president would pursue, and thus they defected to Ronald Reagan, a divorced man whose level of religious commitment was barely discernible. Evangelicals have since voted for George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, and George W. Bush, all three of whom cannot really be described as evangelicals themselves, even as Democrats have presented Southern Baptist candidates like Al Gore and Bill Clinton. In short, evangelicals learned from the Carter experience that voting instrumentally on the basis of policy was more important than voting for “the man” on the basis of his religious convictions. And, as the evangelical movement has aged and fragmented (and some leaders, such as Jerry Falwell have died off), there’s no single power broker who can sway enough votes to a candidate like Huckabee to matter much.
Perhaps if Huckabee can exceed expectations in Iowa he might have a shot at picking up more endorsements from the Christian right, but as long as he is mired in the lower tier of the GOP field and evangelicals remain satisfied with the policy commitments—to the extent they’ve even made policy commitments—of the more viable (and certainly less evangelical) candidates like Giuliani, Thompson, McCain, and Romney, I don’t see much movement happening for Huckabee.
Pieter Dorsman reasons by analogy between Andres Serrano’s infamous “Piss Christ” and the recent controversy over the caricatures of Muhammad that appeared in a Danish newspaper and are now spreading across Europe’s media outlets.
Professor Paul Mirecki of the University of Kansas was apparently brutalized in roadside beating, allegedly in response to anti-Christian comments that came to light after he waded into the intelligent design controversy in the state by offering a course in the subject. The whole story doesn’t sound entirely plausible to me, but stranger things have happened, and there’s certainly no shortage of nutbars out there with an axe to grind…
I never thought I’d be asked a question about Iraq in a phone interview. Go figure.
And the fun never ends… Thursday, I get to have a phone interview with a place that will hire non-Christians, but they won’t tenure them. I get the odd feeling that after I ask the college’s position on hiring Christians who don’t buy into scriptural inerrancy or young-Earth creationism, this one’s going to be over pretty quick.
Ken Fisher of Ars Technica contributes further to my general level of skepticism about “intelligent design” proponents:
Intelligent Design backers spend no shortage of time trying to portray what they believe as science, but an embarrassing fact has come to light about the book that Dover would have the kids read, Of People and Pandas. As it turns out, the book was originally a work of Christian apologetics, and it explicitly promoted creationism. Indeed, the version published now is the largely the same, save one minor fact: they more or less did a search and replace, substituting Intelligent Design where Creationism once sat in the text.
More on this theme from this week’s Economist, courtesy of my ex-co-blogger Robert Prather, who’s now back and blogging up a storm at Insults Unpunished.
W comes out in favor of teaching Intelligent Design (a.k.a. Creationism with the serial numbers filed off) in public schools. Someone really needs to tell the president he can’t run for reelection, and thus no longer needs to behave like an idiot to gain votes. I take it all back—although, in my defense, I was discussing Congress and not the executive branch.
Unfortunately, the Democrats will fail to extract the correct lesson from this: teachers*, not politicians, should decide what should be taught, and the only way to stop politicians from deciding what gets taught is to get the government completely out of the education business. Instead, they will attempt to back evolutionary theory ad nauseum and further alienate the crowd in Kansas (and the rest of rural and suburban America) which they can’t figure out what’s the matter with.
Update: Alex Knapp is sharing my wavelength today.
* I pointedly use the word teacher and not parent; mind you, absent the advantage for public schools conferred by taxpayer subsidies, parents would be free to choose among available schools and teachers on a level playing field.
According to today’s Clarion-Ledger, the local chapter of Bethany Christian Services has reversed its policy barring Catholics from adoptions.
Rather than anti-Catholic animus, the agency rather bizarrely pins the blame on its misunderstanding of Catholic Charities’ adoption policy:
McKey said the agency’s past policy of excluding Catholic parents was “unintentional on our part” as Bethany had assumed Catholic Charities gave preference to Catholic couples seeking to adopt.
I must have missed the passage in the Bible where it says it’s OK to discriminate, but only as long as you think other people are doing it too…
Tom Traina notes some old-style anti-Catholic bigotry going on in my backyard: a “Christian” adoption agency is denying prospective Catholic adoptive parents carte blanche on the basis of a policy that is, on its face, not inconsistent with Catholic beliefs.
To their credit, Choose Life Mississippi is investigating the allegations, which may encourage Bethany to rectify its policy. On the downside, the national Bethany organization is apparently A-OK with local chapters deciding which denominations are “Christian enough.”
Will Baude disagrees with Todd Zywicki’s assertion that the “wall of separation between church and state” is a modern coinage, pointing to Thomas Jefferson’s 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association.
While it’s true that Jefferson did write the letter, and he is a “founder” in some senses of the term, on the larger issue I’m not sure his opinion is dispositive as to whether or not the First Amendment should be understood as erecting a “wall of separation,” particularly since Jefferson was an executive branch official (Secretary of State to George Washington) at the time. James Madison’s position (as chief author of the Bill of Rights) would be more dispositive—and, in fact, Madison appears to have staked out a somewhat different position closer to the “coercion” and “neutrality” tests than either strict separation or Lemon.
Whether or not this should matter when interpreting the Constitution, however, is another question entirely.
I got my written evaluations today, and while some of it was bizarrely contradictory (some people complaining that my lecture was too much like the book outline, others complaining that the tests and lecture had nothing to do with each other even though the tests came from the book materials!) I got a rather odd comment that I’d made “occasional anti-Catholic remarks and jokes” in my civil liberties class. I suppose there are a few things that could be stretched that way (mostly, a few Louisiana jokes), and maybe even a few things that could be construed as anti-religious in general (I generally stay away from that soapbox, although I will make an occasional “Ten Suggestions” joke for the Methodists in the audience), but I don’t remember singling out Catholics in particular. Weird.
Ah, there’s nothing like a controversy combining college football and religion to add to the excitement of the upcoming 2005 season. The spotlight, of course, is on DeBerry due to the Air Force Academy’s apparent religious indoctrination problem, but you’d be naïve not to think that the same thing goes on in the locker rooms of other great American public universities and high schools—ask Bobby Bowden for one. And, if you go beyond the formalities, one suspects that it’s easier to be considered a “team leader” in the locker room if you have an FCA membership card in your wallet.
Like Kevin Aylward’s favorite school district, DeBerry and the academy are clearly running afoul of the law, even under the weaker “neutrality” test of religious establishment adopted by the conservative wing of the Supreme Court. If his players really want to be “saved,” I’m sure there are other people who can take care of it for him.
Kevin Aylward apparently thinks people who violate court orders with impunity should get off scot-free since the people who are calling for enforcement of the court order have, in the past, defended people Kevin doesn’t like. For that matter, I don’t really like those people too, but neither do I particularly like people who confuse public schools with Sunday school.
Well, there’s a new pope… I guess I should say something about that. Instead, I’ll let the Catholics duke it out—in particular, I’ll witness the fur fly between Andrew Sullivan and Stephen Bainbridge.
In other news, Ms. Passey has good news for those men who engage in regular sexual activity (solo or otherwise); more details here. One wonders what Pope Benedict XVI thinks of this news.
Oh, and my semester is over in 13 hours (except for finals and this pesky honor code violation problem I’m having to deal with). I plan to celebrate enthusiastically with friends.
It turns out that the only folks abusing Terri Schiavo were politicians, according to Florida investigators:
The agency completed nine reports of abuse accusations made from 2001 to 2004, including neglect of hygiene, denial of dental care, poisoning and physical harm. The accusations, which have been widely reported, focus on Michael Schiavo, the husband of Terri. Ms. Schiavo died on March 31, nearly two weeks after her feeding tube was removed.
The names of many accusers have been blacked out in the documents, but the name of Ms. Schiavo’s father, Robert Schindler, appears on one.
And via Stephen Bainbridge comes word that the Democrats will be bringing up Terri Schiavo again during at least the next two election cycles:
Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said Friday that his party would wield the Terri Schiavo case against Republicans in the 2006 and 2008 elections, but for now needed to stay focused battling President Bush on Social Security.
“We’re going to use Terri Schiavo later on,” Dean said of the brain-damaged Floridian who died last month after her feeding tube was removed amid a swarm of political controversy.
I can hardly wait…
Alex Knapp points out a flaw in Intelligent Design theory—namely, that the universe is actually rather poorly designed.
Belhaven College wants to upgrade its home football field, which it shares with Jackson Public Schools, to have better facilities and artificial turf.
Left unmentioned is that Belhaven’s generous offer to pay for most of the renovations might have something to do with field envy for the new surface at Harper Davis Field a few hundred yards west. It’s gotta stick in those Presbyterians’ craws that us Methodists have ourselves a better football field.
I tend to agree with James Joyner and John Cole that putting creationism in the public school curriculum on-par with evolution is a thoroughly dopey idea.
That said, Jim Lindgren points out that the textbook on evolution in question at the Scopes trial was a load of racist, eugenicist trash—the sort of stuff that’s fortunately marginalized (though perhaps not marginalized enough in Hart’s case) in today’s society.
Did I hear John Kerry correctly on Friday night when he staked out a position in favor of federal subsidies for the poor to exercise any right guaranteed by the Constitution? Here’s the exact quote:
[Y]ou have to afford people their constitutional rights. And that means being smart about allowing people to be fully educated, to know what their options are in life and making certain that you don’t deny a poor person the right to be able to have whatever the Constitution affords them if they can’t afford it otherwise.
I know he was talking specifically about abortion (while dancing around trying to avoid saying he’d approve federal funding for abortions), but the logical premise was based on any natural right, which presumably would include birth control (Griswold), non-commercial adult sodomy (Lawrence), free speech, free exercise of religion, travel, and a whole host of other rights.
Via Eric Muller, I ended up at the blog of Vox Day, self-described “Christian libertarian,” who is currently taking a lot of heat from conservative defenders of the new Ann Coulter over his challenge to her shoddy scholarship in her book In Defense of Internment.
In a September 15 entry, I read this:
If we're very, very lucky, in another 40 years we'll hear songs by female pop stars demanding the limiting of suffrage to productive, property-owning men of a certain age. Of course, the depths to which we'll have to sink in order for most people to realize how disastrous universal "democracy" has been for the nation will probably be more than a little unpleasant, and the chances that the masses will turn towards a dictatorial demagogue instead are probably, oh, around 666 to 1, but it's still nice to contemplate a potential silver lining in the massive black cumulonimbus looming in our collective (and collectivist) future.
Maybe Vox Day should get together with Alec Rawls. If they could get past the question of the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII, they'd have so much to discuss.
The BBC had an interesting story today on Islam in the Ningxia province, “the heartland of Islam in China.” Chinese Islam is, according to the story, more progressive than the variety found in the Middle East. There are even a few female imams.
Beijing's tight control over religious practice means Chinese Muslims have been isolated from trends sweeping through the rest of the Islamic world.
According to Dr Khaled Abou el Fadl from the University of California in Los Angeles, that means that ancient traditions like female jurists – which have been stamped out elsewhere – have been able to continue in China.
“The Wahhabi and Salafis have not been able to penetrate areas like China and establish their puritanical creed there,” said Dr Khaled Abou el Fadl.
Sometimes when I read Andrew Sullivan I wonder what they actually teach in the political science department (I'm sorry, I mean “Kennedy School of Government”) at Harvard. This item provides yet another example:
BORN-AGAIN DIVORCE: A new survey finds that born-again Christians are just as likely to get divorced as everyone else; and, in some instances, seem to have a higher rate of divorce than others. Jesus, of course, was explicit in his condemnation of divorce (unlike homosexuality). A large majority of born-again Christians disagree. Just don’t call them cafeteria Christians. They have their focus on the real threat to marriage: those who have always been barred from marrying.
I do hope Sullivan is aware that born-again Christians (however defined; the survey linked by Sullivan uses a question format that probably would inflate the number of “born-agains” versus the normal approach of asking the respondents whether they consider themselves “born-again Christians”) come in many political stripes, and many of them (including probably a higher proportion of those who are divorced, who would tend to be more liberal) support same-sex marriage. But why let the facts get in the way of a good smear against Protestants?
Ironically, of course, those who tend to agree with Sullivan in his Quixotic crusade to restore covenant marriage as the law of the land are also the least likely to approve of same-sex marriage, Sullivan’s protestations that favoring gay marriage is actually a “true conservative” position notwithstanding.
Update: This page may help explain the title of this post.
Another Update: Conrad of The Gweilo Diaries also has quibbles with Sullivan’s fixations as of late.
I get this odd feeling that if I were a committed Christian I’d be offended by lectures from non-Christians about my beliefs and the implication that my religious faith compelled me to support a particular party’s policies. Jesus may not have favored private property (or, rather, said the path to salvation was not through having worldly possessions, which isn’t exactly the same thing—having stuff was essentially orthogonal to salvation, although coveting more stuff was a distraction from that path), but I don’t remember anything in the Gospels about God’s will requiring the establishment of European-style welfare states either.
Seen on a church sign today in Fayette County:
I had to wonder — will that really increase their resale value?