Writer Garry Wills did us all a service recently in The New York Review of Books with an essay detailing exactly how the Religious Right has affected public policy. It is well worth a read.
Wills begins by pointing out that Religious Right claims that American government has always been Bible based are false. Wills sees the presidency of George W. Bush as unprecedented for the scope of its religiosity. He notes that some previous American presidents were evangelicals but goes on to say that none of the other 42 president prior to Bush “would have answered a campaign debate question as he did.
Asked who was his favorite philosopher, he said ‘Jesus Christ.’ And why? ‘Because he changed my heart.’ Over and over, when he said anything good about someone else – including Vladimir Putin – he said it was because ‘he has a good heart,’ which is evangelical-speak (as in ‘condoms cannot change your heart’).
Interjection: Do you think Bush thought that Sadam Hussein "had a good heart?"
Bush talks evangelical talk as no other president has, including Jimmy Carter, who also talked the language of the secular Enlightenment culture that evangelists despise.”
From there Wills goes on to delineate what the Religious Right has achieved under Bush. These include, according to Wills:
- Faith-based justice, represented by the administration’s constant attempts to curb legal abortion and ban same-sex marriage as well as the creation of a special unit within the Department of Justice to intervene in church-state cases on the side favored by right-wing evangelicals.
- Faith-based social services, represented by the Bush plan to politicize his “compassionate conservative” agenda to win new support for the GOP in African-American religious communities.
- Faith-based science, represented by the administration’s backing of “intelligent design” creationism (to the extent that it even permits the Park Service to sell a creationist book at the Grand Canyon) and its denial of global warming.
- Faith-based health, represented by Bush’s decision to lavish millions in federal money on often overtly religious and usually medically inaccurate “abstinence-only” sex education programs and its reluctance to allow the Food and Drug Administration to approve the use of the “Plan B” pill.
- Faith-based war, represented by Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin, who gave speeches to evangelical groups while in uniform and framed the country’s conflict in apocalyptic terms and the Religious Right’s tendency to back Bush’s global policies with Bible citations.
Since his perceptive 1990 book Under God: Religion and American Politics, Wills has been patiently explaining to the Religious Right exactly where they have gone wrong. Perhaps some day they will actually listen to him. Until then, more power to Wills’ pen.
Thank you to our wonderful Roman Catholic friend. Even though Catholics worship Mary and idols(according to the fundamental Christianity that I was taught), they still have some awfully good contributions. Wink, wink.