Apparently, Comedy Central, even after censoring “South Park” for its Islamic insults, is considering developing a program all about Jesus. I agree with Joseph Bottum and The Anchoress – I’ m not offended, and there will be no riots or terrorism. But I also bet it will not be very funny, and therefore, few people will watch. Of course, in this day and age it does not take a lot of viewers to keep something on the air – so don’t be surprised if “success” is claimed – but don’t be fooled either.
“South Park” and Comedy Central lead “On Faith” to ask:
What is the obligation of a Western, democratic government to protect individual freedoms in light of a realistic terrorist threat? Are the producers of South Park right to forfeit their freedom of expression in the interests of protecting their employees? Are the governments of Europe right to ban burqas in the interest of fostering a more open society?
Frankly, that question is a reflection of why Newsweek is on life support. In many ways it was asked and answered a century ago. Yeah, I’m talking about the legal battles over Mormon polygamy. Simply put, government should not interfere with religious belief, and generally not religious speech, but it can and should interfere with religious practice when said practice harms the normal operation of society. The problem is not South Park or burqas – it’s terrorism.
Here’s what I know: We hunt down terrorists – they die in battle, they are executed, or they spend the rest of their natural lives in jail. Pretty soon Islam will reform to the point where it does not produce them. Behavioral consequences drive philosophy just as much as philosophy drives behavior, it just takes patience.
Which brings us back to presidential politics. Because of that very phenomenon, we need worry less about a candidate’s religion and more about his policy. Think about it.
Sometimes spin is so obvious that it needs to be pointed out just for giggles. Consider:
Michael Gerson trying to make an economic case for Tim Pawlenty. There are a lot of reasons to like Tim Pawlenty, but economics? Over Romney? Yeah, that’s giggle inducing.
Look, rescinding Franklin Graham’s invitation to pray at the Pentagon is a no-class move typical of this administration. But Graham’s response is not doing Evangelicals any good either:
Continuing to escalate his criticisms of President Obama for not restoring Graham’s rescinded invitation to a prayer event at the Pentagon, Graham has warned the president that “millions of Evangelical Christians that voted for Barack Obama in this last election” likely won’t “be at the table next time” because Obama is not giving Graham and his allies their due.
There should be a National Day of Prayer, but Evangelical hubris is a large part of why we are in this mess. When they got exclusionary over Mormons, they almost guaranteed this kind of stuff. Mormons weren’t going to protest, but you knew someone would.
It is time for politically active Evangelicals to grow up just a little. We have got to learn how to build coalitions and think more broadly – it’s not always “us against them.” Or more prudently, sometimes what helps us, also helps them. First we had to beat Hitler, therefore we allied with Stalin. Eventually we beat Stalin too. First we need a National Day of Prayer at all, eventually people will figure out whose prayers are best.
“The real question is how the radical LDS right wing is going to live with the evangelical radical right. I think this is the craziest conflict on the globe. Both sides trying to stake out their pure version of the cultural right. Maybe, we LDS ought to rethink our infatuation with that line of political thought. The telestial kingdom will freeze over before Mormons are accepted by ‘those people.’ Just ask Mitt Romney.”
There is some serious wisdom there.
And the next time anybody talks about “right wing hate speech, consider this (forwarded by a reader) from The San Fran Chron:
This is the good news: many of the world’s most powerful, hurtful, wretched old men will soon be dead.
Does that sound cruel? Unkind? I might be OK with that. In fact, I might very much be in the mood to not really mind at all if a whole slew of these nefarious creatures of sociospiritual corrosion were to, say, spontaneously combust, or be struck by lightning, or perhaps accidentally fall into a giant, roiling vat of Astroglide and turpentine and a million duplicitous prayers. Whoops! Sorry, Monsignor!
Because here we find a very bizarre cluster of powerful, pale, sickly old men who are now sliding back into view thanks to a new documentary, “8: The Mormon Proposition,” the trailer for which is available for your deep sighing and open cringing right now.
While I have no idea as to the overall quality of the film itself, the trailer alone seems to reveal a fine-looking flick that, at bare minimum, details just how ruthlessly, how hatefully the Church of Latter Day Homophobes worked to terrify and intimidate its own uninformed followers into funding — to the tune of nearly $18 million — one of the most detestable pieces of legislation in California’s history, not to mention the church’s own “secretive, decades-long crusade against gay rights.”
You know, I am struck by the fact that only on the left is perceived hatred considered justification for the real thing. Those of us on the religious right operate by an entirely different paradigm – something about “return no man evil for evil….”
Lowell adds . . .
By the way, Senator Robert Bennett has been ignominiously denied nomination, not in a Republican primary, but by Utah’s caucus-style GOP nominating convention. Like most caucuses, the Utah process produces some pretty extreme results. This was one of those occasions.
But why is Bennett’s public political execution relevant to this blog? Because it gives rise to yet another of Lowell’s Political Prophecies: First, the hard-right in Utah is going to start attacking Romney because he supported Bennett, even coming into Utah to campaign for him. Romney has stated publicly that voting for TARP was the right thing to do, even though he’s not happy with the execution. Bennett’s support for TARP was cited by the ultra-conservative oracles in Utah as a major reason that the 3-term Republican senator had to go. Second, the Utah hard right’s attacks on Romney will give cover to Romney opponent who oppose him because of his faith, or who want to take advantage of discomfort over his faith (think Mike Huckabee). They will simply say, “Hey! Even Romney’s fellow Mormons in Utah think he’s a RINO!” It is certainly not a bad thing that people will be talking about Romney’s position on the issues, and not about his religion, but I don’t think positions will be the real reason that a lot of those folks oppose the man.
John chimes back in…
We sometimes write our Monday posts “thorough the weekend.” That Lowell was being prophetic above, we both agreed Saturday night, but neither of us knew it would come to pass as soon as Sunday morning. Consider the NYTimes:
Mr. Bennett, 76, was outmatched in delegate votes by two relative newcomers despite an enthusiastic endorsement and convention speech from Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and local Utah hero, and a political pedigree of deep Mormon roots and public service.
Bennett was dogged by his support for the Troubled Asset Relief Program and for co-sponsoring a healthcare bill with Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oreg.). To help make his case to the 3,452 delegates, he even tapped the star power of former Massachusetts governor – and fellow Mormon – Mitt Romney to make a final pitch.
Well, there you have it – the line has been drawn and now it will just be up to Romney’s opposition to walk it.
But typically, the national press does not tell the whole story. Consider this from the SLTrib:
Lee’s campaign said it was damaged by a controversial mailer that showed up in delegates’ mailboxes on Friday. It pictured Lee’s picture over the LDS temple and Bennett’s picture over the Capitol, questioning “Which candidate really has Utah values?”
It was sent by a group calling itself “Utah Defenders of Constitutional Integrity,” and was apparently sent from Cleveland, but there is nothing else known about the group. Both Lee and Bennett’s camp denied having any hand in the mailing and Lee condemned the attack ad during his speech.
“Some falsely accused me of accepting illegal contributions. Others that appeared to support me are patently offensive,” he said, denying that they were in any way connected to his campaign.
But Lee’s spokesman, Dan Hauser, said before the final vote that there was no question the Mormon mailer hurt the campaign.
“If you asked us in January if we would be happy with the position we’re in, absolutely,” he said. “Do I think we lost some votes because of the mailers? Absolutely. And I think it was a slow drip over the week of all the false attacks. It was just drip, drip, drip.”
Michael Richards of Herriman who is LDS and a Mike Lee supporter said the ad was “repulsive. “
“It’s not a religious thing. This is not about religion… it’s about who supports the Constitution,” he said.
Normally, we would attack such a thing on its face – playing the religion card in this fashion is repulsive. But consider it in light of Romney’s plight in this mess as described by Lowell. “The Mormon Card” was played not against Bennett, but against Bennett’s opposition, regardless of who played it, and yet MSM is trying to use it against Romney who endorsed Bennett. Talk about trying to have your cake and eat it too!
But I think the best take on the Bennett thing came from Robet Costa in The Corner:
Seeing Romney out on a limb, daring to debate the tea party about the future of the GOP, is refreshing. Right or wrong, he’s at least showing that he can lead.
And just a little more from Lowell:
Amid the chorus of glee over Sen. Bennett’s needlessly ignominious political execution, let me sound a discordant note: This event is more about Utah’s caucus-style political nominating system than about Bennett’s supposed sins. Apparently the Senator’s worst misdeed was to vote for TARP. Is anyone really suggesting that vote as a basis for throwing out not only Bennett, who is Utah’s Mr. Republican, but the rest of the GOP senators?
In Utah’s caucuses, the political parties’ base rules the nominating process more than in just about any other state. Before we get too excited about the significance of Bennett’s ouster as an expression of conservative outrage, let’s note that Representative Jim Matheson now faces a primary. Matheson is the lone Democrat in Utah’s delegation. His sin? Voting against Obamacare. In Utah’s caucus system, being insufficiently liberal can get you in as much trouble as not being conservative enough. I like this comment:
Much in the same fashion as what Utah Conservatives accomplished against Senator Bennett, an ideological sense of pureness has overcome Utah Liberals, who want to remove their one chance of representation in Washington, because he isn’t big government enough…. if the Republican Caucus wants to emerge a stronger and healthier coalition come November, I would suggest a gameplan for maintaining a sense of Ronald Reagan’s big tent and his 80 percent friend, not a 20 percent foe approach. If we lose the Ronald Reagan Republican formation, than our movement will shrivel and die, especially if we don’t reinstate the Eleventh Commandment of Republican politics.
Incumbents might be safe in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, North Carolina and other states, but in Utah they better watch out, because the ideologues are coming for them!
Writers in the blogosphere (including yours truly) often criticize our national political class. Well, Bennett is one of the good guys: decent, thoughtful, conservative, classy, and well-spoken. The hard-core right-wingers in Utah who, amid their gloating, are calling Bennett a RINO have a very heavy lift in winning that argument. Others, like Dan Riehl, wonder whether the tea partiers are controlling the situation quite as much as they think they are.
The tea partiers are mostly a great and important phenomenon, but excesses are excesses, no matter who commits them, and the Bennett episode was one. Excuse me if I don’t join in the celebration.