President Giuliani: “A Fate Worse Than Bush”?
Liberals have long prayed for a “rational” GOP candidate, so why aren’t more cheering Giuliani’s bid? The fear at Harper’s: Christian jihad.
By Paul O'Donnell
Dateline Washington, 2009—The first year of Rudy Giuliani’s presidency has ushered in an era of unprecedented social strife, as the once-formidable evangelical Christian voting block, distraught over the election of a non-evangelical Republican to the nation’s highest office, has gone underground, forming a loosely organized network of cells and declaring war against the United States in order to reclaim its soul.
Former Focus on the Family chairman James Dobson is in Guantanamo Bay, detained for allegedly masterminding a thwarted plot to blow up the Unitarian Universalist Association’s fortified headquarters in Boston. Richard Land, chief mullah of the Southern Baptist Convention, dictates his demand to the president: release Dobson from Gitmo, or Land can’t be held responsible for what his network of mujahideen, operating out of a string of Midwestern Waffle Houses, will do to disrupt the nation’s Starbucks supply chain...
Atheistic paranoid fantasy or prediction for the future if former New York mayor Giuliani gets elected president?
August was the month that the media turned their guns on Giuliani’s candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, as Time, The New Yorker, and Harper’s all ran articles scrutinizing his increasingly realistic chances, marveling that the pro-choice, anti-gun, homosexual-tolerant, twice-divorced New Yorker had somehow passed the conservative southern faction’s smell test, but warning that Giuliani is precisely the wrong man at the wrong time. The most hair-raising scenario is painted by novelist Kevin Baker, writing in Harper’s (A Fate Worse Than Bush, August). Baker questions whether Giuliani will be able to “mute the Republicans’ religious wing.” Citing the evangelical Christians’ growing interest in environmentalism and social justice (see my recent article on this site about evangelicals’ spiritual wrestling-match with Walter Rauschenbusch), Baker inkles that the Christian contingent will unite with the nation’s poor—a population he portrays as set loose by an upwardly mobile Democratic party—to form “a party of the religious and the disinherited.”
Say, I’d vote for that! Not Baker. He’s chilled by this unintended consequence of electing a pro-choice Republican. He calls his imagined coalition “exactly the combination that has given rise to the sort of extremism we so deplore in the Islamic world.”
The implications here are hilarious, and deeply confused. Some conservative-Christian Republicans have already admitted to themselves that the Republicans aren’t committed to overturning Roe v. Wade; others have so Christianized broader Republican policy, or so Republicanized the Christian message, that abortion and the other moral issues are no longer their only attachment to the party. Many more, including the “social justice” evangelicals, have never, or not steadily, voted Republican. None of them suffer the mass unemployment or political disenfranchisement that has apparently fueled jihadism in the Middle East. What Christian extremists we have—abortion-clinic bomber Eric Rudolph and those on the far fringes of the Oklahoma City plot come to mind—arise out of the politically isolated survivalist fringe, not from those bumped from either mainstream party’s platform by a single election.
Baker seems to recognize that there are different kinds of evangelicals. “Many of us would welcome any setback for the Christian right, in view of the buffoonish antics of many of its leaders; its bigoted, know-nothing assaults and gays and lesbians, evolution, and abortion rights, its biased and hypocritical interpretations of the Bible,” he writes. On the other hand a Giuliani presidency would dismiss those “millions of [evangelical] Americans who are profoundly disturbed by the amoral cynicism that now permeates this nation’s elite classes … who genuinely believe in something greater than themselves.”
But which of these groups does Baker think is likely to become his deplorable Christianists? The moderates—those disturbed by amoral cynicism—aren't likely to turn extremist—they find the GOP-aligned Christian jihadists too extreme already. And those jihadists are hardly ready to make common cause with the dispossessed; it is an article of devout Christians' political faith that they are the dispossessed.
I think Baker doesn't know which Christians to fear because he doesn't know what he wants. For two decades, liberals like Baker—and some conservatives, too—have wished Republicans would nominate a “rational” candidate who would accept Roe v. Wade as consensus law, disentangle free markets and the free expression of religion and rid us of the specter of a theocracy. Now that a candidate of that description is rolling toward the nomination, Baker is already rueing what he wished for.
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Paul O’Donnell, a former editor at Newsweek and Beliefnet.com, has written on religion for The New Republic, Science and Spirit, Science & Theology News and is a contributor to Beliefnet’s "Idol Chatter" blog. His last piece for SoMA was Wrestling With Rauschenbusch.
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