Tuesday, March 17, 2015

If You Want A Theocracy, Don't Complain About Being Asked About It

Wikipedia informs us that The Daily Telegraph of London in 2010 ranked Erick Erickson as the 65th "most influential" USA conservative. That ranking is quite conservative, and probably he has moved up in the past 4-5 years.

As the proprietor of Red State, Erikson has become to conservative blogging what George Washington was to generals and Abe Lincoln to presidents.  What he says (as a radio talk show host) and writes is important.

Asked in February whether Barack Obama is a Christian, Repub presidential hopeful Scott Walker stated "I don’t know.  I’ve actually never talked about it or I haven’t read about that, I’ve never asked him that.”

Republicans rushed to defend Walker's response, a slightly odd reaction given that the governor's spokesperson later that day contradicted Walker by stating "of course the Governor believes the President is a Christian."  Erickson responded to the controversy by penning (or rather, typing) a post entitled "All the President's Boot Lickers Still Pretend Obama is a Christian."   (Thoughtfulness is not well received in the conservative blogosphere. Erickson maintained

This is not just why Americans increasingly hate the media, it is also why Republican Presidential candidates should kick them, rhetorically, in the nuts at every opportunity. When some Presidential boot licker asks a Presidential candidate if he believes Barack Obama is a Christian, he should ask the boot licker why it is relevant to anything. After all, the constitution says there can be no religious test for office.

The most amazing thing about the bootlickers is that they think this stuff matters. 

Obviously, the inability or unwillingness of a presidential contender to acknowledge that this President is a Christian, when the latter has stated that he is and no president has claimed otherwise about himself, demonstrates that "this stuff matters," at least within the modern Republican Party.

There is another reason "this stuff matters." It matters because it's clearly important to the GOP popular base, or at least nearly all Repub pols believe it does.   Bill Moyers noted following the GOP's 2012 convention that the

party’s platform contains 10 references to God, 19 references to faith and the first reference to a “war on religion.” Citing what it calls the Obama administration’s “attempt to compel faith-related institutions, as well as believing individuals, to contravene their deeply held religious, moral, or ethical beliefs regarding health services, traditional marriage, or abortion,” the platform accuses “liberal elites” of trying to “drive religious beliefs — and religious believers — out of the public square.”

It matters because of the perception of the American people.  In a country which Republicans claim was founded on "Judeo-Christian principles," in the autumn of 2014, respondents to a survey conducted by Alex Theodoridis were reluctant to concede the President is "Christian" or at least "spiritual."  Thirty-eight percent of Democrats chose "Muslim," "I don't know," or "atheist" rather than Christian or spiritual.  The corresponding figure for Independents was 75% and for Erickson's Party of Tolerance, 88%.

It turns out that Erickson is one of the 88%.  He argued

the Circle of Jerks who make up the political press.should be focusing on all the important stories they lament are being ignored, but instead they have to ask Republicans whether they believe in evolution and whether they believe President Obama is a Christian. He’s not, by the way.

Thoughtful, again.  Erickson did not offer up reasons to conclude Barack Obama is not a Christian though, to be sure, he would have no way of knowing, given that he believes "the political press should be focusing on all the important issues" rather than religion. Except that he believes Democrats should be about their religious views. Erickson never has claimed to be non-partisan.

The question posed to Walker  is not the "gotcha" question  Erickson believed it was.  The governor's answer should have been "of course I believe the President is a Christian" which, it turns out, was the statement his spokesperson, who is reportedly not running for president, knew to make.

It would work with all manner of public figures.  In 2013, Pope Francis was asked to reply to a series of questions posed by Dr. Eugenio Scalfari, described in this site as "an atheist commentator." His response was published in an Italian newspaper and included

First of all, you ask if the God of the Christians forgives those who do not believe and do not seek faith.

Given that—and this is fundamental—God's mercy has no limits if he who asks for mercy does so in contrition and with a sincere heart, the issue for those who do not believe in God is in obeying their own conscience. 

In fact, listening and obeying it, means deciding about what is perceived to be good or to be evil. 

The goodness or the wickedness of our behavior depends on this decision.

Dr. Scalfari had reason to be pleased. Nonetheless, if asked if His Holiness believes that someone must believe in God in order to be saved or to receive God's forgiveness, a politician can simply and diplomatically state "of course he does," even though it is contrary to what the Pope stated. Such a response would invite no criticism or controversy, in part because it often is difficult to determine what a public (secular or sacred) official really believes. Walker does not have to think the President of the United States of America is a Christian in order to deflect a simple question.

Still, the governor did not himself know how to handle the question responsibly, nor did the nation's pre-eminent conservative blogger- however exorcised- know how to explain why a member of the United Church of Christ, heir to a reformed Christian tradition, is not a Christian.

And if I had five dollars for every pundit who has claimed, as did Erickson, "this is.... why Americans increasingly hate the media," I'd be wealthy enough to be a Republican. Well, no, I wouldn't.

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