Beck, King, Rallies…
I am entirely unsure how to untangle this mess. Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech may very well be one of the finest pieces of oratory in our nation’s history. That King and many of his supporters of all colors were motivated by their faith is unquestionable. That speech serves as the pinnacle of one of the shining moments of religiously motivated activism in our nation’s history. However, make no mistake: Oratory and demonstrations are stirring and exciting, but there are limits to what they can accomplish. It took legislation to break Jim Crow and segregation.
In part because of the religious motivation of so many of the players; in part because of the religious cadences and structure of the speech itself; and in part because the issue tugs at us so viscerally, the speech is viewed more as sermon than political rhetoric – and in many ways it was. But that creates a ball of semi-religious fervor around the issues of civil rights that spreads out with a force that, as religion itself, often defies reason and does not tolerate disagreement.
This past weekend has seen that speech raised in the context of the Ground Zero Mosque (GZM) controversy. But it is Glenn Beck’s rally that has really pushed the hot buttons on this one. There is analysis of all sorts, some of it reasonable if left-leaning, and some just flat-out conspiratorial.
But now that the rally is over, here is the space to watch: CNN’s “belief blog”:
On Friday night, Beck held a religion-focused event at the Kennedy Center that was billed as Glenn Beck’s Divine Destiny.
Beck’s speech Saturday also evoked the feel of a religious revival.
“Look forward. Look West. Look to the heavens. Look to God and make your choice,” he said.
Beck has also begun organizing top conservative religious leaders – mostly evangelicals – into a fledgling group called the Black Robed Regiment.
The organization, whose charter members convened in Washington this weekend, takes its name from American clergy sympathetic to the Revolution during the 1700s.
Beck’s emerging role as a national leader for Christian conservatives is surprising not only because he has until recently stressed a libertarian ideology that is sometimes at odds with so-called family values conservatism, but also because Beck is a Mormon.
The need to organize Evangelicals and Mormons together politically has been noted on this blog for a long time. But Beck’s penchant for self-promotion built on controversy makes me wonder if this will really work. I am sure there will be some push-back from religious/political figures that stand to lose in a deal like this, and of course the Mormon-haters out there, but will it have traction?
My advice to Beck would be this: Work to solidify the coalition that is emerging and then step aside and let more serious people run with the ball. I am not, however, at all sure that Beck has the discipline to do that. In which case it is my hope that something useful can arise from the smouldering mess he will leave behind.
Watch this space.
This has got to stop – we are supposed to be the nation that has figured out religion and politics, and yet we seem to be sinking into a morass of religious identity bickering that it unbecoming to say the least. The policies of this administration that I support can be numbered on a single hand, so rising to Obama’s defense is not something I do easily, but this really does have to stop. The policies are the problem, not the religion. Now, we are arguing over how to even identify someone as a Christian. (I say we take them at their word and let their pastor call them to account if they are not quite cutting it.)
Now, we are polling about it, and analyzing the polls. It’s gotten so bad, Christian leadership is trying to quell the tide.
Bottom line is this. Obama is deeply unpopular at this point in his administration and people, many of them who don’t pay much attention, are saying all sorts of ugly things to try and justify their general unhappiness and distaste for the man. There are ALWAYS such undercurrents in our nation. We as a nation – and especially the press – have a choice: fan the heat in hopes that it will turn into a conflagration, or leave it be.
The tradition in this nation has been to leave it be, because anything else will only tear us to shreds. The forces at play here are not to be messed with. That’s the great compromise that is America. Freedom means there will be ignorance and distrust just as much as there is goodness and light. We try to keep the ugliness in a corner – bringing it to light does not destroy it – it turns it loose.
Romney On The Road…
He’s going to 25 states, but everybody is talking New Hampshire and pick-up trucks!?!?! You know, it may just be possible he is genuinely interested in helping Republican candidates in the states he is visiting. Yes, he’s gonna punt Iowa, if it took until now to figure that out then you weren’t paying attention. And as to imitating Scott Brown with the whole pick-up truck thing – where do you think Brown got the idea? Sometimes political analysis is just downright silly.
But some of it is ugly and untoward, as in this Boston Globe editorial, reprinted in the SLTrib:
Thus, one would expect Romney to stand against those who, seeking a “wedge’’ issue, are making a cause out of the plans for a mosque to be built in Lower Manhattan. They are playing on ignorance — the notion that all Muslims somehow share responsibility for Al Qaeda — and intolerance. As a very small minority religion in the United States, Islam can be easily stereotyped by self-proclaimed experts, and maligned by every crank who has access to email. Just as Romney’s critics took pieces of Mormon doctrine and twisted them to create rumors of current-day polygamy and rejection of Jesus Christ, some critics of the mosque in Lower Manhattan have sought to portray all of Islam as warlike, and the decision to build a mosque as an act of triumph.
That is so full of straw men and hot-button pushing as to defy analysis. First Romney was criticized by these same sources for not taking a stance of a LOCAL Issue and then when he does, he is excoriated for the stance he took. Talk about playing “gotcha.” The GZM issue has nothing to do with religious freedom or “twisting doctrine.” Rather, it has to do with taste, respect and class. There was a movie martial artist by the name of Sammo Hung. His gimmick was he could make a weapon out of anything at hand. That seems to be the game the Globe (& Trib) wants to play here. “We’ll hammer Romney with any issue we can trump up.” Others are picking up the meme.
By the way, note that through all this, they get to hammer on the Mormon issue one more time. Coincidence? I think not. They will take any shot they can get – no matter how far they have to stretch a point.
Reviewing The Field…
…Mitch Daniels. Have we added him to our masthead too soon? We said when he tested the press waters that he did not seem to pass the audition. He may have agreed with us. MSNBC’s “First Read” reprints an interview he did with the Louisville Courier-Journal in which he says, “This is nothing I have started, encouraged,…People have asked, ‘Please don’t absolutely close your mind’ and I have said I’ll think about it.” Now, very early in the game that’s how we analyzed the Daniels talk, but then between whisperings from our Indiana Statehouse contacts and the big press roll out we figured he was actively pursuing it. Of course most guys considering a run deny it until they can’t. Stay tuned.
…John Thune. He is running unopposed, but spending like there’s a lot at stake. Does not take a psychic to read those tea leaves.
…Tim Pawlenty. His hometown paper says, “”Mapping out a route to the White House, Gov. Tim Pawlenty appears headed for a fork in the road: One way goes through fiscally conservative New Hampshire, the other through socially conservative Iowa,….” (HT: Taegan Goddard) Let’s see, the last winner skipped “socially conservative Iowa” and headed straight to New Hampshire. Just sayin’.
…Sarah Palin. Gee, ya think:
But while the former Alaska governor often sounds and looks like a presidential candidate, her failure to pursue other aspects of the presidential playbook has created significant doubts about her intentions.
We’ve been sayin’….
In the World of Religion and Politics…
Jim Wallis apologizes to Marvin Olasky, but remains amazingly ungracious to Glenn Beck. Better, but not enough in my opinion. Wallis’ continued slams of Beck lack graciousness. If Wallis wants to be a Christian voice in politics, he would do well to remember that grace is one of the hallmarks of a Christian, even towards someone with whom you vehemently disagree. Although there are some much uglier than Wallis when it comes to Beck. (Set-up for a Romney attack? – time will tell.)
Ramesh Ponnuru continues the discussion on identity politics and religion.
Not smart. But then I am fairly sure that is why TPM brought it up to begin with.
Lowell adds . . .
Gee, next thing we know there will be stories about pickup trucks in Mormon culture…. The CNN piece seems pretty balanced to me. This bit of reporting/analysis caught my eye:
“There’s a long history of tensions between Mormons and evangelicals and some of that is flat-out theology,” says John C. Green, an expert on religion and politics at the University of Akron. “Mormons have additional sacred texts (to the Bible) and a different conception of God.”
“It’s also competitive,” Green said, “because evangelicals and Mormons are both proselytizing in the U.S. and around the world.“
I’d like to see more of that clear-eyed discussion. We ought to be able to say, simply, that religions will always compete – whether the fight is over converts or over debates on baptism by immersion or the nature of God – and that those discussions don’t belong in politics and elections.