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Theocracy!

posted by awelborn

Just posted at First Things, a review/essay of the recent spate of Theocracy’s-Around-the-Bend books by Ross Douthat.

It’s excellent – he does us all a great favor by explaining just how all of these writers connect-the-theocratic-christianist-dots, in case you were wondering. He then pulls it all together:

In addition to casting religious conservatives as mullahs, proto-fascists, and agents of American decline, this strict-separationist interpretation of world history frees the anti-theocrats from the messy business of actually arguing with their opponents. From sex education and government support for religious charities to stem cells and abortion, it’s enough to call something “faith-based” and dismiss it. Indeed, reading through the anti-theocrat literature, one gets the sense that the surest way to judge if a political idea is wrong, dangerous, or antidemocratic is to tally up the number of religious people who support it.

Now…wait for it…


Except that nobody really believes this line.

Exactly. To read why he says this read the rest.



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Deacon John M. Bresnahan

posted July 21, 2006 at 4:31 pm


To any religious person who has been involved in “political” issues–normally those with a moral edge–the strategy of some opponents (usually of the liberal persuasion politically) is to try to take away religious citizens rights by turning every issue into a Church-State debate or alternatively to stir up anti-religious bigotry is old hat. Here in Mass. this has been a tactic masterfully used repeatedly by the local liberal media –especially the Boston Globe–for decades now. It is just that the strategy is using newer language and becoming shriller—and spreading nationwide like a cancer from the liberal centers of American culture.



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paul zummo

posted July 21, 2006 at 4:48 pm


Having just had yet another battle with one of my leftist and secularist co-bloggers, I can testify to the truth in Deacon John’s comment. They’re content with calling the President an “Ayatollah” and leaving it at that. It’s quite sad, actually.



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Deacon John M. Bresnahan

posted July 21, 2006 at 5:05 pm


I just read Senator Tom Harkin’s attack on the pope and the president over stem-cell research.
Everything I read was a virulent diatribe against the Catholic Church, Catholic history, and the pope. It had absolutely nothing to do with the issue of stem-cell research. Is this the way liberal Democrats, like Harkin are going to get back the votes of disaffected Catholics??? Compare that to the reaction of conservative Republicans who supported the war in Iraq when the pope came out with strong criticism of it. I saw no vicious diatribes. No trying to stir up anti-Catholic sentiment. The strongest I ran across was some comment that “Well, that’s his opinion.”



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David Harwell

posted July 21, 2006 at 5:07 pm


I just have to interject that this article paints the so-called left with a very broad brush. We are not all religion hating zealots, bent on erasing all traces of Christianity. Unfortunately, there IS a small and vocal minority of people that DO espouse a transformation to theocracy, in order to assist the end times in coming about. This is known as a Dominionist or Christion Reconstructionist ideology. Having run across many of these folks in Texas, I can attest that this is their goal, in the more extreme expressions. I would hope that we would not judge any group by the extremists on the lunatic fringe, but would listen to the vast middle on both sides, which is where the true attitudes of the majority emerge.



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Mike

posted July 21, 2006 at 5:08 pm


I laugh at the notion that religious conservatives are somehow linked in a grand plot to impose religion upon the nation. Somehow, the secular leftists have cast us in that light.
In the last 40 years, they have done exactly what they are accusing us of trying to do. They have worked their hardest to deconstruct our institutions, our history, our morals, and our culture in an attempt to rebuild it in their Godless vision.
Where they have succeeded in most of Europe, they have attempted to succeed in the US – foisting abortion, pornography, promiscuity, homosexuality, contraception, a presumption of atheism in our institutions, and the obliteration of the traditional family. They have met their strongest opposition in today’s Religious Right and the Republican Party.
For 175 years, America existed primarily as a mishmash of people adhering to traditional religious traditions. Our cultural mores were established based upon our principles and ethics. Yes, there were problems, racial bigotry being perhaps the greatest evil.
These secular leftists, however, refuse to acknowledge that it is they who have hijacked OUR culture, and it is not we who impose our morals upon them. Europe is lost – longtime holdouts Ireland and Portugal are collapsing under liberalism, perhaps only Poland will be the only nation of believers in 25 years.
The US is the only developed country that has a strong enough core of Christian believers to overthrow this nonsense, and it frustrates the liberals that we are still putting up a fight.



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Mike

posted July 21, 2006 at 5:22 pm


It’s classic ad hominem argument.
If the public was more educated in basic debate skills the strategy would quickly be rejected as logical fallacy.
We are a society that doesn’t know how to debate.



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Rod Dreher

posted July 21, 2006 at 5:24 pm


Having run across many of these folks in Texas, I can attest that this is their goal, in the more extreme expressions.
Where do these people live? I’ve been in Texas for three years, and while nothing would surprise me, I’ve not knowingly met a single person who believes this. Where does one go to find Lone Star Rushdoony-ites?



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Randy

posted July 21, 2006 at 5:27 pm


It reminds me of CS Lewis’ idea of the devil getting people worried about the evil they are least in danger of succumbing to. I don’t think America was a theocracy 200 years ago. The idea that it might get closer to it then it was then seems quite far fetched.



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Kevin Jones

posted July 21, 2006 at 5:43 pm


“I just have to interject that this article paints the so-called left with a very broad brush. We are not all religion hating zealots, bent on erasing all traces of Christianity.”
True, but in the US at least some of the most militant secularists are very influential in left-wing circles and the Democratic leadership.



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Loudon is a Fool

posted July 21, 2006 at 5:56 pm


I’ve been in Texas over 7 years and have yet to meet a genuine Christian Reconstructionist. And I actively seek out wing-nuts for their interesting conversation. So, if by “many,” David Harwell means the three he met when he pulled off of I-35 into a Denny’s and found he had mistakenly stepped into the Quinquennial International Christian Reconstructionist Convention, then fair enough. But I suspect that by Christian Reconstructionist he means he met a Baptist who opined that gay sex is “icky.” Which doesn’t quite amount to Christian Reconstructionism.
But please prove me wrong and point out the locale of this hotbed of Christian Reconstructionism. I’d like to meet one of these guys.



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Joe Strummer

posted July 21, 2006 at 6:06 pm


I too have spent the better part of my life rubbing elbows with religious nuts like all of you. And I have never encountered a SINGLE person who espouses anything remotely like this. I mean…not one. I have never heard the word “Rushdoony” or “Reconstruction” ever mentioned. Once. I have never heard anybody conceive of biblical law as a template for our political laws. Not one law. Not one person.



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Deacon John M. Bresnahan

posted July 21, 2006 at 6:16 pm


Of course, David, there are religious nutcakes on the right in the Republican Party and in conservative circles. That is where conservatives of all stripes tilt toward. And the media –seeming to work hand-in-glove with the anti-religious Dean wing of the Democratic Party— have done an evil and masterful job of smearing the whole mainstream conservative–religious and political–movement with the religious nutcake Big Lie brush.
History shows that virtually no Communists
or Communist-Socialist types join the Republican Party– they join the Democrat Party. But to say so–let alone really push that fact–would bring hysterical cries of McCarthyism.
And since there are nearly as many anti-religous, anti-Catholic, and now –apparently– anti-Semitic (see what is happening to Liberman in Conn. where leading national Dems are deep-sixing him and liberal sympathy for terrorists instead of beleagured Israel is obvious) wouldn’t it be fair–considering what has been done to Repub Party–to label the Dem Party the anti-Christian, anti-Catholic, anti-Semitic Party??????



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Marion (Mael Muire)

posted July 21, 2006 at 7:37 pm


Mike wrote: “I laugh at the notion that religious conservatives are somehow linked in a grand plot to impose religion upon the nation. . . . In the last 40 years, the (secular leftists) have done exactly what they are accusing us of trying to do. They have worked their hardest to deconstruct our institutions, our history, our morals, and our culture in an attempt to rebuild it in their Godless vision.”
You’re right about all this, Mike.
A lot of these shreiks of “Egad! Theocracy!” from the left are, I suspect, issued quite disingenuously, and are calculated to distract us from the view of yet another leftist wrecking ball taking aim at one of our cultural institutions.
The Left does this all the time, and they’ve learned it works! Back in the early 1970s it was, “Those mean horrible religious righters forcing poor Li’l Orphan Annie to bring her rapist’s child to term, those monsters!” But meanwhile the organization funding abortion rights’ efforts included the Playboy Foundation . . . and history has proved that the real agenda was and is “Abortion on Demand! No Apologies!”
And the Left got what they wanted! The US has among the most liberal abortion laws on the planet. And every time a parental consent bill introduced is in some midwestern state, the Planned Parenthood and NARAL PR machines go into high gear and trot out the image of poor little raped Orphan Annie as an example of how mean and horrible the pro-life cause is.
How do they get away with it?
Because, by cracky, we fall for it every time!
It’s getting late in the day, people! Let’s wake up!
“These secular leftists, however, refuse to acknowledge that it is they who have hijacked OUR culture, and it is not we who impose our morals upon them.”
Oh, I think they know darn well that this argument they put forth is a lot of baloney. But, who cares? To the secular left, an argument doesn’t have to be true; it just has to silence the opposition and win the sympathy of the middle. When they see that we actually fall for this hokum, no doubt the leadership of the secular left high-five one another and shout yessssss!”
“The US is the only developed country that has a strong enough core of Christian believers to overthrow this nonsense, and it frustrates the liberals that we are still putting up a fight.”
Keep fighting the good fight, Mike. And pray that the left doesn’t succeed in continuing to pull the wool over good peoples’ eyes.



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Ken

posted July 21, 2006 at 7:43 pm


You never need to worry about Those Evil Xians establishing their Oppressive Right Wing Theocracy when you live under an Islamic Republic.
And if you keep smashing and dismantling the only thing in Western culture with a proven track record of resisting Islamic expansion and Jihad, you WILL.
But before the crash, you can enjoy your Freedom From That Pesky Xian Sexual Morality. While you can.



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Fred

posted July 21, 2006 at 7:56 pm


As a former Christian Reconstructionist (until I became a Catholic), I can confirm that Mr. Harwell is correct on one or two things.
Gary North (he of the Y2K bug fame) is the most prominent member of a Reconstructionist group in Tyler, TX. Other notables in the movement who either lived there or were otherwise associated with it in some fashion back in the 80s (and, to a lesser extent, the 90s): David Chilton (who died not long after expressing a desire to convert to Eastern Orthodoxy), Ray Sutton (now a bishop in the Reformed Episcopal Church), James Jordan, Gary Demar, etc.
It is a mischaracterization of them to describe them as “theocrats”, if by that one means to say that they believe in either a direct rule by God or in an ecclesiocracy. They don’t. They do *not* believe (at any rate, their best representatives never have) that the law of the land should be the Bible. They are not so simplistic nor foolish as that. It is true that they would have human laws closely follow biblical law as much as possible (of course, what that means would be a subject of debate; even Reconstructionists themselves disagree on some of the points over which they are most demonized by less well-informed segments of their opposition).
Furthermore, Christian Reconstructionists do not advocate this in order to “assist the end times in coming about” in some Hal Lindsay-esque fashion. They are postmilliennialists: they believe that Christ will not return until after a thousand-year reign of the righteous. They take a very long view of things.
Christian Reconstructionists are not revolutionaries. They are committed to transformation through persuasion, not at gunpoint.
The best book for understanding the political views of the North-led Tyler wing of Reconstructionism may be North’s book, Political Polytheism.



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CV

posted July 21, 2006 at 8:35 pm


Even if it is true that there is a fundamentalist fringe of Rushdooney-ites deep in the heart of Texas (although Rod says he hasn’t met them yet), it’s hard to imagine they and their ilk would wield the kind of political power the “theocons” are accused of.
This is still all about the last election. A significant group of citizens (of various religious persuasions) who share deep concerns about critical life issues exercised their constitutional rights and voted accordingly. As a result, the election swung right instead of left.
I call that democracy, not theocracy.



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Fred

posted July 21, 2006 at 8:52 pm


Even if they ever had any influence in Tyler, those days are gone. North has moved away, and is largely discredited, I would think, by the fact that the Y2K bug fizzled. Bahnsen is dead. Rushdoony is dead. Chilton is dead.
I would have to agree that with their major leaders either gone or discredited, the Reconstructionists have little or no influence at all outside their own circles, and don’t even make much of a bugbear for the Left anymore.



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Donald R. McClarey

posted July 21, 2006 at 9:08 pm


“Even if they ever had any influence in Tyler, those days are gone. North has moved away, and is largely discredited, I would think, by the fact that the Y2K bug fizzled. Bahnsen is dead. Rushdoony is dead. Chilton is dead.”
I have never heard of any of these gentlemen which I think is a pretty good indication of their lack of impact on mainstream conservatism in this country.



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Will Barrett

posted July 21, 2006 at 10:02 pm


I am still reading this essay — but enjoy what I’ve read so far — but let me say this:
Ross Douthat is, simply put, one of the finest young writers on the scene right now. He is a careful, subtle thinker and has an incredible facility with wordfs. I look forward to reading his work. I cannot say enough good things about him. This piece in the Weekly Standard from last November was very thoughtful and provoking: http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/006/312korit.asp



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nn

posted July 21, 2006 at 10:08 pm


Now, if the US political scene were composed of church on the one hand and state on the other, of course they would be opposed. Politics is a virtue. State is not a virtue, it is only a classification. The antichristians of the political left are on the political left because they have had State exemplars on the political left abroad, 1945 onward. The present war was begun by theocrats without question. It was not begun by the Islamic religion, nor was it begun by the Iraqi society. Society is a virtue, too. Society was not invented by the King of Sodom but it certainly has been mistaken by today’s antiwar atheists for a temple artifice. Read the Scriptures, of course. Dare I say it -part of the job of the Christian churches is to convince a convert on her or his path to Christianity to become a better Muslim or a better Shinto during the mean times.



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AJP

posted July 21, 2006 at 10:23 pm


Great article! It is very frustrating to hear people who are otherwise very well-educated and intelligent, believe in such ridiculous conspiracy theories about the “impending theocracy.”
What has struck me the most when I hear people talk like that is the exteme ignorance they have about the nature of Christianity in America, especially fundamentalist and evangelical Christianity. Anyone who is remotely familiar with how real life evangelicals and fundamentalists view society, politics, and religion should know how ridiculous these conspiracy theories are. The defining feature of contemporary conservative Protestantism is that it is decentralized, anti-authoritarian, and far from monolithic in matters of doctrine. How is such a fragmented movement going to take over the government and set up a new one?
There’s a reason there are so many different churches out there – these folks don’t agree with each other! Try to imagine Southern Baptists, independent Baptists, free will Baptists, five point Calvinists, three point Calvinists, evangelicals, charismatics, trinitarian pentecostals, oneness pentecostals, snake-handling pentecostals, pre-tribulation dispensationalists, post-tribulation dispensationalists, Mormons, Missouri Synod Lutherans, Wisconsin Synod Lutherans, conservative Methodists, conservative Presbyterians, anglo-catholic Episcopalians, evangelical Episcopalians, and all the “just Christian” Christians who belong to various unaffiliated churches which hold wildly divergent views on baptism, soteriology, worship environment, etc all coming to agreement on who they want to lead the wonderful new theocratic government of America. Can anyone imagine such a thing?
I guess folks who have no clue about what America is like outside of New York and L.A. would think this. Wouldn’t surprise me as I’ve also heard some of these types also refer to *Catholics* as “bible thumpers” who believe that “all you need to do is believe in Jesus and you’ll go straight to heaven.” I’ve never failed to be amazed by how ignorant and clueless so many educated people can be.



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Anonymouth

posted July 21, 2006 at 10:25 pm


“Compare that to the reaction of conservative Republicans who supported the war in Iraq when the pope came out with strong criticism of it. I saw no vicious diatribes. No trying to stir up anti-Catholic sentiment. ”
Yes, or compare it to that cartoon Amy had a few days ago, from America’s ultra right-wing Israel-Can-Do-No-Wrong party, there were no attacks on the Chruch and the Pope, there was nothing vicio— er,…. never mind.



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Simon

posted July 21, 2006 at 10:45 pm


Unfortunately, there IS a small and vocal minority of people that DO espouse a transformation to theocracy, in order to assist the end times in coming about.
Okay, David. But there is also a small and vocal minority of hard core Stalinists who agitate regularly against US military activity, immigration restrictions, etc. If those people got their way, millions of Americans would be put in front of a firing squad. Indeed, to anyone who’s ever attended a Left Wing protest march of almost any kind, it’s obvious the Stalinists play an infinitely larger role in the modern political Left than these deeply obscure “Christian Reconstructionists” do on the Right.
Would it be reasonable or fair for political conservatives to ascribe the policies of the Democratic Party to a cabal of Stalinists that controls the Party? Would liberals think it okay if conservatives routinely accused them of trying to subvert the Constitution in the name of Marxism-Leninism?



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Simon

posted July 21, 2006 at 10:58 pm


By the way, this current bout of ultra-secularist paranoia illustrates neatly how traditionalists and political conservatives have benefitted from the media’s longstanding demonization of anti-communists.
No mainstream figures on the political Right are willing to call their opponents “Communists” or accuse them of being agents of an enemy power. Anyone who did so would be ridiculed, forced to apologize, and politically destroyed. That sort of stuff is taboo.
But the Left, thanks to its cozy relationship with Hollywood, the journalism profession, and academia, has no such taboos. Thus, it’s hard for Lefties to resist the temptation to label their opponents “theocrats” even when it’s patently obvious to any neutral observer that people who make such accusations are looney-toon. There are no unwritten rules preventing Lefties from shooting themselves in the foot.
Needless to say, this Rushdooney character and his minuscule “Christian Reconstruction Movement” are far more familiar to Leftists and secularists today than they are or ever were among conservatives or Christians.



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ATP

posted July 21, 2006 at 11:15 pm


For my part, it took me until about halfway through the article to realize that Rushdooney is not a made-up name.
Given that I travel in all the most cosmopolitan circles, I think we can safely assume he is not on the radar of the average pawn of the theocracy.



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ATP

posted July 21, 2006 at 11:23 pm


I see, upon closer examination, that his name is actually Rushdoony.
Sorry about that. I fall prostrate before the Christianist tyrants, that I may be shown mercy for my error and not be subjected to compulsory homeschooling.



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pml

posted July 22, 2006 at 1:07 pm


If I might add and direct attentions to this recent article in YES:
SOURCE: http://www.yesmagazine.org/article.asp?ID=1463
YES! Magazine Summer 2006 Issue: 5,000 Years of Empire
The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community,
by David Korten
To quote a few small lines from the article:
” … According to cultural historian Riane Eisler, early humans evolved within a cultural and institutional frame of Earth Community. …”
“….The struggle to define the prevailing cultural stories largely defines contemporary cultural politics in the United States. A far-right alliance of elitist corporate plutocrats and religious theocrats has gained control of the political discourse in the United States not by force of their numbers, which are relatively small, but by controlling the stories by which the prevailing culture defines the pathway to prosperity, security, and meaning. ….”
Now how did I find this truly insightful article? Well, at this site run by the Servants of Mary sisters:
http://www.hillconnections.org/rp/unity0oc.htm [Hill Connections]
Yes, the good sisters have a list of contributing authors that help them w/their mission to save the planet:
http://www.hillconnections.org/hc/writersartists.htm
Please note the many enlightened names gracing the page of other
luminaries. Such as:
David Spangler of Findhorn fame, who I quote from a document found on Lucis Trust (along w/Morton Kelsey Episcopalian):
http://www.lucistrust.org/goodwill/pdf/poh6.pdf
” ….we are beginning to develop a true sense of ourselves as a planetary species, we may also be experiencing a revisioning of our image of the nature of divinity. It is not just discovering another way of moving toward the divine (most of the older, traditional ways are pretty effective when properly undertaken) but reimagining the divine toward which we are moving….
Looked at this way, the spirituality of the New Age lies not in discerning a particular path to the divine but in asking the question, What is the nature of an ecological God contrasted to a cathedral God? That is, what kind of god, goddess, or sacredness God lives in the connections between things and in the wholeness of life rather than at the end of a particular religious path?
and,
Alfredo Sfeir-Younis, X-World Bank official (20 some yrs) who was recently a guest speaker at the Srs. of St. Joseph’s Milwaukee 2006 conference … who believes:
http://www.kosmosjournal.org/kjo/articles/articlessub2/peace-abundance.shtml
“… In 1947, the Council of the Supreme Spirit allowed me to return to earth. This was not a unanimous decision, but I insisted so much that they let me come. I was not the only one who attended the meeting of the Council; my four siblings were there, too. It was a group decision and all five us engaged in intense negotiations. We all felt that Chile would be the right place to be born this time around and we became part of the same family. We chose the same parents?Alberto and Ines—who came to earth before us for many important reasons. As a result of the negotiations, one sibling decided to precede me and the three remaining ones were born after me. All of these deliberations might have happened thousands of years ago.
Was it the right choice to make and the right time to come? It must have been, though in many ways, I am still figuring this question out. Only recently I began to remember the content and scope of the Council’s discussions. Specifically, the Council members sent me with a clear and precise mandate that incorporates a large array of goals, events and directives for this lifetime, including the healing of humanity. ….”
I guess it is all how you define a “Theocrats”, No?



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Tom Harmon

posted July 22, 2006 at 2:32 pm


There are nuts on the lunatic fringe of both the right and the left. the difference is, the nuts on the right don’t get published by Basic Books.



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pml

posted July 22, 2006 at 3:45 pm


“There are nuts on the lunatic fringe of both the right and the left” – Harman
I agree; and another observation is the nuts on the left seem to keep getting grant money & podium time, for their “diss” Judeo-Christianity while they evangelize a new form of spiritual marriage w/government’s help …



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Deacon John M. Bresnahan

posted July 22, 2006 at 6:03 pm


ANONYMOUTH–READ MORE CAREFULLY–I said there are right-wing nuts in the Republican Party’s conservative wing- – and as you said there have been some ultra-right wing nut attacks on the pope—but that is not the broad mainstream conservative wing of the party which has not joined in on such hammering. But in the Democrat Party you have the first- string in the mainstream of the party spewing venom. Dean, the head of the Democrat Party has been particularly nasty. Harkin–a Dem. U.S. Senator has been a real anti-Catholic hatchet man in the Senate recently.
Yet, if you go by the way the liberal media handles stories it is the nuts who control the mainstream Republican Party but the mainstream Dems get a free rein when their leaders go off into the nutty land of bigotry and hatred. Or as one historian from the U. of Penn. (a Protestant)said recently the only respectable bigotry left in our country is anti-Catholic bigotry (and I might add anti-Evangelical Protestant bigotry.)
And it is the Democrat Party in symphony with the liberal media who are the biggest promoters of this bigotry.
How bad is the media??? Here in Boston the powerfully influential Globe (local stooge for the NT Times) has two columnists who regularly write on Catholic matters. Both are notorious anti-Catholics (who keep up their membership in the Church as a front, but at one time or another have visciously attacked everything Catholic–if they are Catholic,Hitler was a Jew.
Meanwhile there are plenty of nationally known enthusiastic Catholic writers who live in the Boston area. They, of course, are persona non grata at the Globe.



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David Harwell

posted July 24, 2006 at 10:30 am


“There are nuts on the lunatic fringe of both the right and the left. the difference is, the nuts on the right don’t get published by Basic Books.”
No, the nuts on the right get published by Regnery.



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Mike Petrik

posted July 24, 2006 at 11:54 am


David,
Leaving aside the factual merit of your assertion, you don’t discern a fairly critical distinction between Basic Books and Regnery? Really, is it too subtle for you?



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