EDITOR’S NOTE: This column appears in the December 13, 2004, issue of National Review, in Mark Steyn’s regular “happy warrior” spot.
I’ve greatly enjoyed the post-election traumas of the Democratic party. I loved those few days when Nancy Pelosi was ostentatiously dropping a soundbite from “Matthew” into every media appearance. Who is this Matthew guy she’s on such chummy terms with? Matthew Meadows, Florida state representative for District 94? Matthew P. Denn, the Democratic candidate in the race for Delaware insurance commissioner?
No, turns out it’s Matthew as in the Gospel according to. Big name in Jesusland, to use the new designation. A little too big, indeed, to be cited plausibly as evidence of one’s acquaintance with Scripture. Anyone can refer in a vague way to Matthew. Had Mrs. Pelosi managed to rattle off a couple of verses from Philemon or Habakkuk, all over the vast Bush-voting swamp, millions of stump-toothed rednecks would have briefly stopped speaking in tongues as their jaws hit the floor. By the way, it’s only two k’s in the middle of “Habakkuk”–not like Amerikkka or John Ashkkkroft.
Anyway, after a week of trying to turn the Democratic whine into holy water, the House minority leader decided to chuck the saint-dropping. As the whole Jesusland thing suggests, her base isn’t entirely on board with the outreach. And frankly the Democrats never do well when they try to square contemporary liberal pieties with religion. For one thing, they recoil from the very word “religion.” Al Gore prefers to say, “Well, in my faith tradition . . .” As a rule, folks with a faith tradition tend not to call it such. At Friday prayers in Mecca, the A-list imams don’t say, “Well, in my faith tradition we believe in killing all the infidels.”
Second, prominent Democrats seem to have great difficulty getting even the well-known bits right. Christmas, according to Hillary Rodham Clinton in 1999, is when those in that particular faith tradition celebrate “the birth of a homeless child.” Or, as Al Gore put it in 1997, “Two thousand years ago, a homeless woman gave birth to a homeless child.” For Pete’s sake, they weren’t homeless–they couldn’t get a hotel room. They had to sleep in the stable only because Dad had to schlep halfway across the country to pay his taxes in the town of his birth, which sounds like the kind of cockamamie bureaucratic nightmare only a blue state could cook up. Except that in Massachusetts, it’s no doubt illegal to rent out your stable without applying for a Livestock Shelter Change of Use Permit plus a Temporary Maternity Ward for Non-Insured Transients License, so Mary would have been giving birth under a bridge on I-95.
YOU CAN READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE IN THE CURRENT ISSUE OF THE DIGITAL VERSION OF NATIONAL REVIEW. IF YOU DO NOT HAVE A SUBSCRIPTION TO NR DIGITAL OR NATIONAL REVIEW, YOU CAN SIGN UP FOR A SUBSCRIPTION TO NATIONAL REVIEW here OR NATIONAL REVIEW DIGITAL here (a subscription to NR includes Digital access).