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Evangelical Reader Symposium



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I have to go the Christmas pageant at my daughter’s school pretty soon. And then I have annual holiday lunch with some buddies of mine. So I will be out of pocket for much of the day. But I wanted to do some justice to the responses I’ve gotten from evangelical readers. I won’t be around for much of the day to post more responses — so please keep them to a minimum. Anyway, since it’s long I put them under the fold.

Jonah,

In response to your emails that appear to claim that all evangelicals
must–simply MUST–support Huckabee, let me add my own two cents’ worth.

First, since these folks are, as you point out, tied to identity
politics, let me establish my own pedigree. Became a Christian in the
6th grade, son of a retired minister, lay preacher (for the
non-church-goers out there, that means that I am not ordained, but have
delivered the sermon–more than once, in fact), theology student, and
regular attender of Promise Keepers conferences. In short, anyone
claiming I am not Christian or evangelical is clearly not well connected
to reality.

Now, on to the substance. The argument that we must support an
evangelical candidate simply because he is evangelical is balderdash.
Let me provide an admittedly extreme example. Let’s say that you or a
loved one needs serious heart surgery, and you have your choice of two
surgeons. One is a noted cardiologist, has successfully performed this
operation hundreds of times, and is no more expensive than the
alternatives. However, he believes in Hinduism. The alternative is a
doctor who is evangelical, but who has had a clear lack of success with
this operation, as shown by his record. Which would you pick?

In short, just because someone has the “right” religious pedigree does
not necessarily mean that he is qualified for every job out there.
Especially when you consider that the job of President of the United
States is one of the hardest jobs in existence.

I would probably have no problem voting for Huck as the pastor of my
church. But that’s an altogether different job from POTUS. The President
is not the High Priest of America, after all. This evangelical will not
support nor vote for Huck for President, even if I have to write in
Charlie Brown (because Mickey Mouse already gets too many write in votes).

And:

Jonah, if it makes you feel any better I’m an evangelical and I don’t support Huckabee. Supporting him would be tantamount to saying that because I’m female I should be supporting Hillary. I’m an evangelical and I’m supporting the “polar opposite” of Huckabee: Rudy.

And:

Hey Jonah! Can’t wait to get my mits on your book! That was a pretty rousing endorsement from Tom Wolfe, by golly. I think the Huckaboom is further evidence that we’re skidding off the rails. I’ve spent the last ten days in constant “shaking my head” mode. I think that the Huckabee supporters are well meaning. What are the paving stones on the road to hell made of again? HOW HOW HOW have we come to this? We have four magnificently qualified candiates, Rudy, Romney, McCain, and Fred (I’m a huge Fred fan, but would be happy with any of the four) and this spectacularly unserious Huckabee is leaving them all in the dust… End times. The “identity” phenomenon that the evangelicals are whining about is something I thought we conservatives were mostly immune to. Both the Pope and Obama have been emphasizing the concept of hope. I wanna have some.

And:

Jonah,

No, I don’t believe that you are anti-evangelical. You have been even-handed with all religious people. I suspect that as non-observant Jew, you feel like an outsider to every religion. So, from you, we all get the same treatment – good people who have some strange ideas about God.

But I do understand the feelings of your other longtime reader about The Corner. There are a few Cornerites who have a special contempt for any evangelical that they can find a fault in. The atheist/agnostic Stuttaford makes no attempt to disguise his hostility. K-Lo undoubtedly treats Catholics with respect and evangelicals with disdain. Derbyshire’s contempt is based more in his disgust with anyone who doesn’t believe in evolution.

It’s not that we believe in identity politics, but that we suspect that Catholics and Jews and New Yorkers get a lot more breaks from National Review than evangelicals do. I, personally, have often sensed this bias. I may be paranoid, but I doubt it.

And:

Jonah,

I just finished reading Nash’s Conservative Intellectual Movement in America after finding an old G-file online in which your recommended the book. It was fantastic, and I wish more folks would pick it up.

I am an Evangelican Christian and a Romney supporter. As I have been reading Nash, I was struck at how this election is straining the fusionism that WFB and NR worked to create between the factions of conservatism. Of course, I believe that Romney best represents the libertarians, traditionalists, and neoconservatives, but he certainly isn’t a perfect fit in any camp. I hope we can keep the conservative coalition together no matter who the GOP nominee turns out to be.

And:

Jonah,

These are the type of e-mails that scare me. I really worry that this is going to fracture the republican party. Now I don’t actually give a rat’s ass about the party for the sake of the party, but I am afraid that if Huckabee supporters start pointing fingers at non-Huckabee supporters you will see a division along religious lines. And any division in the republican ranks looks like it could hurt us next Nov.

I don’t like it. I don’t agree with it. We’re electing a political/world leader, not a minister. I think you guys have done a great job pointing out some real concerns regarding Huckabee. Just like fans of sports teams don’t like for people to point out their team’s flaws, I think the evangelicals hate that ‘their guy’ has flaws to point out. They want one of their own so badly that when he comes along, they put their blinders on. Just keep making the same points you’ve been making, I think eventually his weaknesses will start to sink in. I’m afraid it’s going to be ugly for a while, though.

And:

I’m writing because of your corner post “Anti-Evangelical NR.” I’m about as evangelical as they come but I don’t understand this Huckabee stuff. Why does Huckabee being an evangelical mean criticisms of him are attacks on evangelicals? In my “evangelical” opinion, Huckabee’s policies might actually be worse for evangelicals if he was president (as opposed to one of the other candidates), as they might be worse for everybody else too. I haven’t decided who I will vote for yet but it’s very unlikely to be Huckabee.

I’m sure you’ll get many emails along these lines so here’s another one in case you want to count the number of emails from evangelicals with the opposing point of view.

Keep up the good work!

And:

Mr. Goldberg,

I’m a regular reader of National Review. I think you guys have, in
general, the best columns and I appreciate the quality of your work.
But I have to agree, at least in portion, with the person who emailed
you and accused NRO of being anti-evangelical.

Not that I would characterize NRO’s positions with that terminology.
But the writer has a point when he/she points to Harriet Miers and
George W. Bush as examples of outsider evangelicals being derided and
neglected as “incompetent”.

Michael Medved hit the nail on the head in his recent article about
Huckabee. He pointed to the fact that many voters today see the
Republican Party as run by Wall Street conservatives who give token
attention to the evangelical movement by supporting candidates who,
first and foremost, will make sure that the greenback is in their
wallet. If ‘under God’ is on the bill, that’s just a plus. So if
someone like Miers runs, she’s “unqualified”, even though there have
been many fabulous examples in American history of, by our standards,
uneducated people running high profile government positions.

Romney is a governor, but as far as I know, he has no more foreign
policy experience than Huckabee. When Giuliani was the hot candidate,
his personal moral failures, so obvious to the rest of us, seemed to
be a side issue for many of the NRO columnists as long as he could
protect us from foreign enemies. Yet when Huckabee makes a few gaffes
about Mormonism and his past record, NRO labels him a sleek liar.

He may be. But don’t you think that Huckabee’s moral failures, even if
true, pale in comparison to Giuliani’s? I’m not justifying anyone
here, just pointing out an inconsistency. Why react this way? Is
Huckabee really more liberal than Giuliani? Romney may indeed be the
better choice, but thus far, not one of NRO’s generally shrill
articles (Bryan York is an exception) has convinced me that he is not
conservative.

If Huckabee was clearly going to raise taxes, cut the military,
promote a liberal foreign policy, and crash and burn in a general
election, I wouldn’t vote for him, religious or not. Look at the
recent Zogby poll. Huckabee’s support among “very conservative” people
is higher than his support among born again Christians. Why the
discrepancy if the Huckaboom is nothing more than the religious right?

NRO’s coverage (Jean Lopez’s article in particular) has been
reactionary and far too emotional. NRO fights Huckabee as if your own
religious convictions were at stake, as if the strength of his
evangelicalism were a threat to your own morality. I’ve singled out
NRO, but the other candidates have responded the same way. Instead
labeling Huckabee a “closet liberal” with straw man accusations and
responding to his religious background so stridently, why not treat
him like any other candidate? Instead, you have gone from treating him
like a cute nobody to being the Devil incarnate, sent to destroy the
Republican party (just read John Podhoretz’s recent article on how
Huckabee ‘swallows campaigns whole’).

Until you can effectively prove that Huckabee is not a true
conservative (I’ve read his positions and have not been convinced he
isn’t), he will dominate this race, and by dominating, he’ll win it in
the end.

Still reading,

And:

A paramount problem of identity politics is that its practitioners deny that ridiculousness among their cohort is worthy of ridicule.

Correction! I just came back from the big show. My daughter was the stand-out, of course. I thought I’d hit “publish” on this but came back to discover I hadn’t. Anyway, off for yuletide libations and vittles.



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