The Corner

“Idolatry” and Idiocy

“The Idolatry of America,” Damon Linker’s review of Wayward Christian Soldiers in The New Republic, opens with this charming passage:

Who would now deny that the political ascendancy of the religious right has been bad for the United States? Its destructive consequences are plain for all to see. It has polarized the nation. It has injected theological certainties into public life. It has led political leaders to invest their aims and their deeds with metaphysical significance. It has made America a laughingstock in the eyes of the educated of the world. And it has encouraged devout believers to think of themselves as agents of the divine, and their political opponents as enemies of God.

Don’t let the blinkered stupidity of this passage–gosh, is it possible that, say, Roe v. Wade had something to with polarization, too?–fool you: What follows isn’t any good, either.

American evangelicals have come to believe that their Christian faith is perfectly compatible with unwavering faith in the Bush administration–in fact, many of them have come to believe that the two faiths are, at bottom, identical. . . .

Yes, that sounds like every evangelical I know.

Marsh makes his point with alarming ease, noting in one of his later chapters that although polls in early 2003 showed that an astonishing 87 percent of white evangelical Christians in the United States supported Bush’s invasion of Iraq, “Christian leaders around the world–evangelical, orthodox, and liberal” expressed “dismay over the administration’s case [for war].” Marsh quotes, to great effect, twenty-five of these critical statements, written by the leaders of Christian organizations from every corner of the globe, most of which the majority of American evangelicals have undoubtedly never seen or read. Regardless of one’s position on the war, these pages of Marsh’s book make a powerful and important point about the American evangelical difference: either the United States contains the only Christians capable of recognizing the fundamental compatibility between the moral message of Christianity and George W. Bush’s foreign policy–or else evangelicalism in America has transformed itself into Republican Party propaganda.

Ever heard of American exceptionalism? More seriously: Did all of these Christian leaders go so far as to say that the Iraq war was incompatible with Christianity? Would Linker care to defend that proposition?

[T]wenty-first-century American evangelicals take their theological cues not from the Bible or the Church Fathers but from Karl Rove and Michael Gerson.

Some of Linker’s criticisms of American evangelicalism may get close to actual problems with it, but the crudeness of mind revealed in these passages suggest that people who want to find an intelligent critique should go elsewhere. David Hart commented a while ago on “the drearily platitudinous liberal secularism that Linker has now apparently adopted as his political ‘philosophy.’” Boy, did he have his number.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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