Religious Right: You've Got To Try A Little Kindness
I was reading Cal Thomas today in the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Thomas, you know, is a nationally syndicated conservative columnist who was peddling the family values brand of Christian conservatism in mainstream media before it was “cool.”
The piece he ran today was essentially a puff for conservative Christian politician and Presidential candidate Sam Brownback. Senator Brownback was down here in Louisiana speaking to prisoners on death row in the state pen at Angola. Thomas thinks that’s a fine example of the sort of thing “social conservatives” (i.e. conservative Christian politicians) should be doing, especially in the wake of the Democratic triumphs of this last election cycle.
“Too many of the (Christian right’s) constituents have been conditioned by the negative approach,” writes Thomas. “In fund-raising letters, in public pronouncements and from some pulpits has come political and ideological invective that is not only unbecoming to the source of such statements but serves as a bad example to others.”
Well, that’s a rap on the wrist for the religious right from one of their own.
But Thomas is not serious in his call for a more positive tone from the politicized Christians. I know that because he singles out Brownback as an example of the kind of “positive message” Christian politician that the religious right ought to embrace.
Oh, yeah, Brownback’s a “uniter”—this is a guy who favors teaching intelligent design alongside evolution and leads the charge against embryonic stem cell research. A pro-lifer who’s referred to the abortions in the United States since Roe v. Wade as "a holocaust;" a guy who opposes legalized abortion even in cases of rape and incest. Oh yeah, he’ll bring us together. The guy who never saw a wedge issue he didn’t like; that’s the kind of “positive” Christian candidate we can all get behind.
Worst of all, Thomas goes on to close his column with this:
“Here's my suggested resolution for the Republican-conservative-Christian voter, courtesy of singer-songwriter Glen Campbell:
You got to try a little kindness/ Yes show a little kindness/ Just shine your light for everyone to see/ And if you try a little kindness/ Then you'll overlook the blindness/ Of narrow-minded people on the narrow-minded streets.
From a political standpoint, the best part of this strategy is that it works and might even prompt more people to vote Republican in 2008.”
What an asshole. Now I’ve got that tune stuck in my head. Thanks a lot, Cal.
And that’s like, the lowest thing you can do as a political columnist—to sum up your thoughts and pad out the column by closing with the lyrics of an “inspiring pop song.” That’s the stupidest thing a columnist can do; that’s why William F. Buckley never signs off with the lyrics from “Free Bird” (“And this bird/you cannot chaa-aaa-nge”) and Walter Lippman never closed his editorials with “Yes, we have no bananas/we have no bananas, to-day.” It’s stupid. A stupid thing to do. Only a stupid person would be “impressed” by that tactic. “Wow…try a little kindness. You know, that’s really true. Read this article by Cal Thomas, Ethel, there’s a really heavy thought at the end there from Glen Campbell. Mmm, these lead-based paint chips are delicious…”
Anyway, “trying a little kindness” won’t “work” for this constituency, as Thomas claims. Because politicized Christianity is the “bad” side of Christianity; it depends on division, on the condemnation of law-abiding people who happen to disagree with its agenda. (The “good” side of Christianity is glorifying God by doing charitable works—acts of kindness. The bizarre part here is that Thomas is telling Christians to do more acts of kindness because that’s the way YA WIN VOTES.)
But the religious right doesn’t win votes by acts of kindness, it wins votes by condemning the things that this constituency fears--because these voters believe the things they fear are downright sinful and therefore shouldn’t be tolerated. Fear and condemnation are at the heart of the Christian political movement; the source of its strength. You’re not going to re-vitalize the Christian right by telling them to be less narrow-minded, more positive, and lay off the invective.
You’ll lose your “base,” if you keep telling them that.
And now I’d like to close with a little number we can all learn something from, courtesy of singer/songwriters the Baha Men:
WOOF/ WOOF WOOF/WOOF WOOF/Who let the dogs out?/WOOF/WOOF WOOF/WOOF WOOF/ Get back, Ruffy/Bye, Scruffy/Get back, you flea-infested mongrel/WOOF/ WOOF WOOF/WOOF WOOF