Quotes of the day

“This year’s Republican primary season offers us an important opportunity to confront our scruples about the privacy of faith in public life — and to get over them. We have an unusually large number of candidates, including putative front-runners, who belong to churches that are mysterious or suspect to many Americans. Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman are Mormons, a faith that many conservative Christians have been taught is a ‘cult’ and that many others think is just weird. (Huntsman says he is not ‘overly religious.’) Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum are all affiliated with fervid subsets of evangelical Christianity, which has raised concerns about their respect for the separation of church and state, not to mention the separation of fact and fiction…

“I do want to know if a candidate places fealty to the Bible, the Book of Mormon (the text, not the Broadway musical) or some other authority higher than the Constitution and laws of this country. It matters to me whether a president respects serious science and verifiable history — in short, belongs to what an official in a previous administration once scornfully described as ‘the reality-based community.’ I do care if religious doctrine becomes an excuse to exclude my fellow citizens from the rights and protections our country promises.

“And I care a lot if a candidate is going to be a Trojan horse for a sect that believes it has divine instructions on how we should be governed.”

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“3. (a) Do you agree with those religious leaders who say that America is a “Christian nation” or ‘Judeo-Christian nation?’ (b) What does that mean in practice?

“4. If you encounter a conflict between your faith and the Constitution and laws of the United States, how would you resolve it? Has that happened, in your experience?…

“7. What do you think of the evangelical Christian movement known as Dominionism and the idea that Christians, and only Christians, should hold dominion over the secular institutions of the earth?

“8. (a) What is your attitude toward the theory of evolution? (b) Do you believe it should be taught in public schools?”

***
“But does Keller’s call for more rigorous religious questioning apply to Democrats as well?

“His newspaper certainly wasn’t at the forefront of dissecting Barack Obama’s Christian beliefs, during the 2008 campaign, especially the then-senator from Illinois’ relationship to his racially inflammatory and conspiracy-minded pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Keller downplayed the Wright controversy in half a sentence, making sure to balance it with a John McCain reference: ‘In the last presidential campaign, Candidate Obama was pressed to distance himself from his pastor, who carried racial bitterness to extremes, and Candidate McCain was forced to reject the endorsement of a preacher who offended Catholics and Jews.’

“The Times didn’t do much pressing of Obama on his toleration of Wright’s radicalism. It took the paper months to accurately quote one of Wright’s most inflammatory sermons: ‘Not God bless America, God damn America!’ The Times also glossed over Wright’s despicable ranting ‘sermon’ five days after the 9-11 attacks. In Wright’s rant, September 11 was a sign that ‘America’s chickens are coming home to roost’ for the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and for supporting ‘state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans.’ After Obama was obliged to address the issue in a speech on March 18, 2008, the Times fell over itself to praise the politically necessary address as Lincolnesque.”

***
“At a time when most Americans care that President Obama has no clue about why his policies have brought about a near-depression in many parts of the economy, the numero uno Timesman emeritus wants a lot secular reporters to dig deep into the religious beliefs of Republicans.

“I wrote that attacks like this one would be coming in my Monday Washington Examiner column, but I didn’t think the trumpet would be sounded so soon and from such a Custer-like figure of the left. Many tried for this very dynamic four years ago vis-a-vis Romney. Jacob Weisberg at Slate was the most visible of the chorus calling for a renaissance of religious bigotry in the country four years ago, though he was and remains very small potatoes next to Keller, despite the later’s record of dismal failure at his paper. Keller elbows Weisberg aside as secularism’s genteel Torquemada, but a bigot is just a bigot even when the circulation is significant.

“Having just returned from Jerusalem where one thinks a lot about the consequences of religious intolerance, Keller’s naked appeal to prejudice is startling to me. Can he not know –really not know– how his lines of inquiry play out and how they have always preceded the worst sort of religious intolerance?”

***
“Here’s a sample of questions Keller might ask the President (but which, notably, he hasn’t)…

“Do you believe the God of the Christian Bible is the same as the God of the Koran? Does this view influence your foreign policy?…

“Are the stories in Genesis (the Garden of Eden, the Flood, etc.) just stories, actual histories or something else? How does this influence your faith in the modern world?…

“How do you integrate your faith with a scientific worldview including belief in evolution?…

“How does Catholic theology differ significantly from Protestant theology in your view and which view of the Bible do you tend to prefer and why?

“Does the Bible influence your views on gay marriage?…

“Do you believe in a future end of days aka Armageddon? Do these beliefs influence your view of Israel and/or foreign policy?…

“Personally, I doubt Obama could answer half of these questions with anything approaching confidence. But then, I don’t expect him to know chapter and verse or even have detailed reasons for his beliefs. He’s an attorney and a layman, not a priest. Still, by Keller’s standard there are all sorts of potential intersections with public policy here. And yet, somehow I doubt Bill Keller cares.”