EDITOR’S NOTE: This appeared in the August 24, 1984, issue of National Review.
The principal objective of the Democratic Convention has been to inquire whether Ronald Reagan is a good Christian, and then to act on that finding. Inasmuch as such inquiries have traditionally been conducted discreetly, there has been much verbal confusion on the matter, to some degree owing to a multiplicity of spokespersons, each of whom, though attempting to serve the role of exegete, ends by confusing rather than clarifying.
It began when Geraldine Ferraro simply up and said it: namely that President Reagan is not a good Christian. This allegation shot through San Francisco like a laser beam; shot through indignation protests by conservationists, parades by labor unions, conventions of aroused teachers, meetings of aroused women, skyscrapers, Japanese restaurants, male brothels. Everywhere the Democratic enthusiasts are meeting to set a superior moral tone for the nation.
Indeed, for a day or two it overwhelmed every other subject and every other concern, save possibly the question of whether Bert Lance is a good Christian. A spokesman for President Reagan said he believed religion should be kept out of politics, and that the final question of whether Ronald Reagan has been a good Christian will be answered by “a higher authority.”
At this point, a spokesperson for Mrs. Ferraro said that the candidate had been misinterpreted, that she was talking less about whether Mr. Reagan’s soul was in felicitous relationship with God than about whether, objectively speaking, his policies transcribed convincingly the Sermon on the Mount. A spokesperson for Walter Mondale said that candidate Mondale was personally certain that candidate Ferraro had not meant to impugn the religion of Mr. Reagan. Rather, she was drawing attention to Christian injunctions that we care for one’s neighbor, which Reagan does not.
A spokesperson for Mrs. Ferraro then said that teh spokesperson for Mr. Mondale hadn’t quite understood what the spokesperson of the first part had meant in interpreting what Mrs. Ferraro had meant. At this point Walter Mondale, exercising that executive decisiveness for which he is so widely acclaimed, put the whole thing in words of one syllable. “When it comes to justice, nondiscrimination, fairness [Reagan] is out to lunch. Those are differences. I wasn’t taught that way. My faith unmistakably has taught me that social justice is part of a Christian’s responsibility.”
Later in the same interview, Mr. Mondale documented his addiction to truth, justice, nondiscrimination, and fairness by saying that Mrs. Ferraro’s gender had nothing to do with her selection as his running-mate. If she had been “a third-term male congressman,” he’d have been equally attracted to her/him as a running-mate.
At any rate, the Democratic platform committee is reconveing for the purpose of urging that all voters pray for the Christianization of Ronald Reagan, always on the understanding that we are not to pray at school, which is forbidden by the Constitution and by the Bible.
Satisfied to record that the majority of the American people, who when last heard from voted for Ronald Reagan precisely because they approved his public policies, are out-to-lunch Christians, candidate Mondale attempted a Napoleonic auto-da-fe at the expense of Democratic National Chairman Charles Manatt, whom he sought to replace, thinking that Bert Lance’s appointment would infuse Christianity into his whole campaign, Christianity being very popular in the South. This maneuver resulted in what the political pros at San Francisco labeled a firestorm.
Two things crystallized, namely that Mr. Manatt is very popular among the Democratic gentry, the second that Bert Lance would stand in the way of copywriters who have developed an in-depth campaign to convince the voters that the Republican Party is the party of sleaze.
Sleaze used to be defined as a party in which people like Bert Lance, whom Christians will be satisfied to refer to as “an aggressive banker,” make out. Never mind that there is injustice in speaking ill of men unconvicted of any crime, candidate Mondale’s faith taught him that fairness toward political opponents could justifiably be out to lunch during political campaigns, without violating any one of the Ten Commandments. But enough people on the scene in San Francisco urged the point that the Great Sleaze War would be hard to launch with Bert Lance in command of it to persuade candidate Mondale to give Bert Lance another title, and leave Manatt where he is for a week or so until a better Christian can be found to run the Democratic Party.
The theologians will be studying this convention for years.