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The Religious Rift

Evangelicals set back? Says who? Plus more: O Happy day!

10.31.05

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NO CHRISTIAN COALITION
Re: Paul Chesser's Evangelical Setback:

Paul Chesser's column is, in some cases, sad but true. In others, it widely misses the mark.

Like many of my likeminded Christian conservatives, I was deeply disappointed by the Miers nomination. I was willing to overlook Mr. Bush's shortcomings (read, "fiscal restraint") because I felt sure that he would keep his campaign promise, and nominate someone in the mold of Scalia and Thomas to the high court. So when I saw the news headline that he had nominated his former personal attorney, whom some White House staffers likened to a "school marm," my reaction was that Mr. Bush had let us down in a very big way.

Not that this was an attack on Ms. Miers personally, as I made clear in an email to the White House that morning; she struck me as a fine person whom the president highly esteems. But to paraphrase David Frum, this merely qualifies her to be a good neighbor, not a Supreme Court Justice.

I was also disappointed in those few Christian "leaders" who blindly supported her. I felt these men should have known better than to simply take the Bush's word as proof that Ms. Miers would be a stalwart strict constructionist. Didn't they realize that Republican presidents had made similar promises on Harry Blackmun, John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O'Connor, Anthony Kennedy, and David "Slam Dunk" Souter? On this, Mr. Chesser is absolutely correct.

On the other hand, Mr. Chesser does not seem to realize just how widespread Christian opposition and/or indifference to the Harriet Miers nomination really was. Pat Buchanan, who still holds much influence with conservatives like myself (though I have my disagreements with him), was astute in his assessment that the Bush White House simply did not want to fight this battle. D. James Kennedy, a prominent voice amongst politically active Christians, had a stated position of "trust but verify," which is hardly a ringing endorsement. Concerned Women for America outright refused to back her nomination, and so did Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum.

Finally, out of the many like-minded Christians whom I spoke to on the Miers nomination, not one enthusiastically supported her nomination (a single person did so reluctantly, noting that Bush probably felt he had to, given the McCain mutiny/"Gang of 14" deal that kept the Senate filibuster intact). I realize this is anecdotal, but I bring it up so that Mr. Chesser will realize the Christian opposition/apathy to Ms. Miers's nomination was far more widespread than he obviously thinks. Tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of us, were demoralized by the Miers nomination, and many of us wrote and called the president to let him know this. I believe that this contributed to Ms. Miers's decision to withdraw her nomination.

Suffice to say, Mr. Chesser's claim that this was a case of Christians being "easy to command" widely missed the mark.
-- Greg Hoadley
Boca Raton, Florida

I read your article and I whole-heartedly concur on the point that you raised. As a fundamentalist and evangelical Christian myself, I was very distressed with the Christian leaders jumping on the Miers bandwagon because she was part of "our team" so to speak. The distressing thing as you pointed out (but I do think you could have pointed out more forcefully) is that they abandoned a Biblical evaluation of their stance which could have easily been extracted from careful reflection of Paul's Epistles. The first thing with which I and they should have taken issue is that neither we nor the president know her heart, only God does. The church is full of people who profess to be Christians but attendance does not make you saved. We can only judge how they live their lives, whether it fits Christ's mold or not.

Since we need the evidence of her life to at least know if she lives the life of a Christian, these leaders should have wanted to see and evaluate the evidence that she had a conservative judicial philosophy. This cannot possibly be done during a conference call with Karl Rove and a few leaders. The second thing that they should have been cautious against is that Satan will always trade one righteous victory to win a greater battle. These evangelical leaders were willing to trade anything for an overturn of Roe v. Wade without regard to what other quagmires could be created.

Let's say for the sake of argument that Miers would overturn Roe, but what would she do in regards to separation of church and state, gay rights, child pornography, and a whole host of subjects that could and would jeopardize even more lives. It is extremely naïve to believe Satan would not trade the federal overturn of Roe to wound these leaders and also to gain more access and power. Unfortunately these leaders took the bait. Thirdly, these leaders should have been extremely cautious with the nomination of a woman to the court.

Although this evaluation is politically incorrect it is a legitimate Biblical consideration. We would not elect her to a position of authority or judgment within a fundamentalist evangelical church government so why should we all of sudden support her in a similar position in our secular government. More importantly if she is a fundamentalist evangelical Christian why would she want to be nominated there and be in judgment over men knowing that this would be in opposition to the place of women dictated in the Bible. There are more points that I could make but as you stated these leaders "abandoned their Berean scrupulousness" which is to me very troubling.
-- Scott Oliver
Duluth, Georgia

Paul Chesser's "Evangelical Setback" reads better as a cautionary parable than as an after-action report, and the reason is because he makes the evangelical tent look bigger than it is.

James Dobson and Chuck Colson are everything Chesser says they are, but Kenneth Starr is far better known for his report on Clinton shenanigans than for his faith. Ditto Jay Sekulow, whose reputation rests on his justly-celebrated American Center for Law and Justice.

Hugh Hewitt is a special case. Influential blogger and radio talk show host? Certainly. Evangelical thinker? Not so much.

Hewitt has a gift for bringing people together (witness the lineup of contributors to his OneTrueGod blog), and for synthesizing thought that's already out there, but to the extent that he walks point, it's in a political rather than intellectual role. Hewitt wouldn't know "Berean scrupulousness" (hats off to Chesser for that perfect phrase) if he tripped over it.

Debating skills notwithstanding, Hewitt benefits from the interruption-driven format of talk radio, and his bona fides as a thinker are consistently undercut by yes-man allegiance to President Bush that had been the subject of derision in the blogosphere even before he went to the mat for Harriet Miers.

As one critic wrote of Dustin Hoffman's performance in Rain Man, "it's a one-note performance, but it's a brilliant one-note performance."

That the mainstream media perceives evangelical Christians as "one-noters with little depth" isn't Hewitt's fault. As a pugnacious Irish Catholic, I'd say it's John Calvin's fault, but that's a subject for another day.

Moreover, elitist misperception of evangelical Christians isn't necessarily a problem. Most of the Elvish warriors in the Lord of the Rings movies were one-noters, too, but while they didn't typically wield swords and battle axes, their skill as archers was unsurpassed.

"Misunderestimated" or not, all conservatives have roles to play in the culture wars.
-- Patrick O'Hannigan
San Diego, California

The statement that "an ability to make a constitutional argument to reach that result is as important, if not more important, than the result itself" has already been proven wrong. The Roe v. Wade decision and from what I read a lot of Supreme Court decisions do not meet that elitist standard. When the left has a majority on the Supreme Court it does not matter how perfectly reasoned any decision is, it will be overturned if the left wills it. They will find a way to make up the law just as they have done in the past. So even if the elitist standard were to be applied temporarily it won't prevail for long. Decisions made to that standard will inevitably be reversed by facile rationalizations. Harriet Miers was held to a standard that has not and will not be consistently applied to the Supreme Court.

Elitist conservatives are pretending to live in a fantasy land where reason conquers all. Unfortunately the rest of us live in a world where millions of healthy babies are legally killed every year.
-- John Scherwitz
Clear Lake, Texas

I just read Paul Chesser's ludicrous canard about evangelicals being intellectual lightweights that are on President Bush's short leash. His first error is to assume that evangelical leaders -- Dr. James Dobson, Chuck Colson et al, (whom I greatly respect, btw) -- somehow speak or represent the evangelical rank and file's sentiments. Funny, I don't remember voting for them as my personal representative.

The fact of the matter is, as an evangelical of thirty years myself, I was not impressed by President Bush's pick of Miss Miers. Neither were most of my evangelical friends. Now how does Mr. Chesser account for this dynamic, eh?

However, many if not most evangelicals are probably overjoyed at President Bush's pick of Justice Alito (who was previously and unanimously confirmed by the Senate not once but twice -- now we'll see who the real out-of-the-mainstream partisan hacks are this time around). The formerly silent majority is spoiling for a fight over what kind of judicial temperament the court will have once Justice Alito is confirmed. Clearly our preference is for a constitutional court of judicial restraint as opposed to a judicially activists court which delights in converting extra-constitutional personal policy preferences into law.

Quit painting evangelicals with such broad brushstrokes. There are any number of diverse conservative nominees with whom traditional evangelicals would be happy with on the Court. Miss Miers probably would have made an acceptable if not mediocre nominee, however Justice Alito is definitely a cut above and will return judicial sensibility to a court often viewed as an overreaching oligarchy. Mr. Chesser has merely engaged in simplistic stereotyping of evangelicals once again which only further feeds the false impressions of those liberal seculars or liberal religionist elites who delight in deriding those who embrace a more religious and traditional perspective of American politics as their intellectual inferiors.

Most of us do not want a justice who is committed merely to overturning Roe v Wade. But hopefully the principle of judicial review might apply to this bit of bad law.

Most evangelicals I know want a strict constructionist, an originalist who will interpret the law and leave the shaping of society to the American People themselves. For far too long an activist Supreme Court has short-circuited the more proper way of the American people to redress wrongs in our society, through the amendment process. For example, gay marriage (sic) shouldn't be decided by the court but rather, like the right of 18 year olds to vote vis-a-vis the 26th Amendment, the American people should be trusted to exercise its commonsense and sense of fairness regarding this question through the constitutional amendment process.

The mainstream backbone of this country is getting sick and tired of the radical left ramrodding its social agenda through the courts which were never envisioned by the founders as an end run around The People and their elected representatives in Congress. Quit legislating from the bench and let's quit empowering the courts and empower The People to determine our own social destiny.
-- Henry Seiter

Paul Chesser's article reflects the bigotry of Northeast conservatives and so-called conservative intellectuals. Republicans and evangelicals (60+%) supported the nomination of Harriet Miers, because they trusted President Bush. Harriet Miers's religious background was a non-issue. Trusting a conservative President (as compared to President Reagan, who working with Democrats raised taxes in his second term, adopted a Democratic "fix" for Social Security, appointed moderates to the Supreme Court, gave blanket amnesty for millions of illegal aliens and refused to avenge our Marines murdered by Iranian surrogates in Beirut) was all-important to the majority of Republicans and evangelicals willing to back President Bush.

Ultimately, Chesser's anti-evangelical snobbery may doom the conservative movement as Protestant believers get sick and tired of people like Chesser, Bork, Weyrich, Buchanan, and the rest of the spoiled brats on the right. We'll start sitting out national elections and then those who think they are God's gifts to the conservative movement can do for the nation (excluding the conservative Protestant South) what they've done for the Northeast.

Frankly, folks like Chesser should shut their gob and thank God evangelicals have decided to ignore their rudeness, so far, and stay true to the national conservative agenda. Like the majority of the media the conservative pundits who attacked President Bush and Harriet Miers may soon become a despised group among evangelical voters. Like your mean-spirited attacks on Harriet Miers, your gloating and belittling evangelicals sounds more liberal than truly conservative.
-- Michael Tomlinson
Crownsville, Maryland

Paul Chesser replies:
Thank you for your response. To clear up a couple of misunderstandings you have:

1. I live in North Carolina -- hardly the Northeast.
2. I am an evangelical Christian (unlike, as you say, Bork, Weyrich and Buchanan -- not that I don't appreciate the work of those fine gentlemen) who has been an editor for two evangelical Christian newspapers.

Both of these pieces of information were noted at the end of my Spectator article. You may access more of my evangelical Christian writings at my personal website, if you are looking for further proof.

PLAMING WILSON
Re: Clinton W. Taylor's Joe Wilson in a Bind:

It's not so much a question of whether Mr. Joe Wilson is indeed lying. Rather, it is a question as to whether Mr. Fitzgerald has the temerity to get off his partisan witch hunt long enough to expose Mr. Wilson. From my vantage point, Mr. Fitzgerald is only interested in carrying the water for the left wing of the Democratic Party. His ultimate goal (in my opinion) is to destroy this presidency, so he just may let Mr. Wilson off the hook if in the end the results justify the means.

The left is bankrupt of ideas. A blind man riding on a galloping horse can see right through them. They have nothing constructive to build on and to offer America. All they have left is destruction and certainly their main wrecking ball is the left wing courts, the left wing mainstream media and loose cannon left-wing prosecutors working in concert with each other.

I am sorry to say that the once great Democratic Party is but a hollow shell of the party of the late great John F. Kennedy. To my way of thinking, they are a party in suicidal free fall and at this point in time, I honestly don't believe that there is a statesman in the party left to save them. And that, folks, is a pathetic pity. And I have to say with all honesty, folks, whenever I hear Senators Schumer, Kennedy, Clinton, Durbin or Leahy speak, the skin on my back actually starts to crawl and I have to leave the room or turn off the TV or radio. My reaction is one of utter contempt and disgust.

Now having said all of that, my one prayer to God above is this. Please dear God in heaven, let those senators keep talking. Please always make sure a microphone is always handy when they are around. Because, the more they talk, the more repulsive and hysterical they sound. And that, my friends, is good for the conservative movement in America. Keep talking, boys and girl, keep talking. The voters are listening!
-- Jim L.
East Sandwich, Massachusetts

Thanks for doing some investigating and connecting the dots. It used to be what reporters did. Well done.
-- Virginia Weicheld

STANDING UP
Re: Jed Babbin's White House Halloween:

The news of the Alito nomination today was like getting the gift I always wanted for Christmas. I can only hope that this means Dubya is finally ready to throw off the gloves and throw down with the Dems. Today is a beautiful day!
-- Chuck Lazarz
Reading, Pennsylvania

Yes the McCain amendment to the Defense Authorization bill, which my Senator Hutchison voted for, should be vetoed. And BTW, Senator, I will remember your vote come election time. It is time for President Bush to get some backbone and tell the liberals where to go. Get used to it, Mr. President they are NEVER going to love you, or even like you, so do the right thing for the people that voted for you.
-- Elaine Kyle
Cut & Shoot, Texas

Happy Alitomas! So nice of W to give us our Christmas present so early!
-- John E. Knight

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