In Saturday's Washington Post, Newsweek religion editor Lisa Miller launched into a predictable attack on Rick Santorum and Franklin Graham for daring to imply that Barack Obama might be un-Christian in some way. "Last week, the Christianity police, in the persons of Rick Santorum and Franklin Graham, came forward to discredit the president's religious beliefs." Santorum said Obama had a "phony theology," and Graham was attacked for saying "He has said he's a Christian, so I just have to assume that he is."
See how extremely defensive Miller and her fellow Obama defenders are? This is what the minister could have said on MSNBC. "Is Obama a Christian? Where do you find him on Sunday? He's much more likely to be on the golf course than in church." That would be "policing." Instead, he said he couldn't judge. So has Lisa Miller never found any politician or pastor to be un-Christian? She certainly has.
It usually came in defending liberal ideals.
December 22, 2009 Newsweek: Miller noted Uganda was proposing extremely harsh punishment for homosexuals. Rick Warren called it "unjust, extreme, and un-Christian." Miller added: "Excellent. Righteous, even. But I can't help wondering: what took him so long?"
You can disagree with assessing the death penalty for homosexuals, and most Christians do. But it's the principle here, that someone is "policing" Christianity, where MIller is tripping herself up. You can't denounce someone thinking they have "theological superiority" and denouncing the "policing" of Christianity and then cheer them on -- unless you're just cheering liberals. Ahem.
December 22, 2008 Newsweek: Miller reports critics called Tony Blair "un-Christian" for supporting the war in Iraq. She had no harsh words for the "Christianity police" there. Then she celebrated the "devout" Blair declaring all his dissents from the pope:
Now officially Catholic, Blair continues to eschew orthodoxy. Though a devout believer, he stands in opposition to his pope on issues like abortion, embryonic-stem-cell research and the rights of gay people to adopt children and form civil unions. "I guess there's probably not many people of any religious faith who fully agree with every aspect of the teaching of the leaders of their faith," he says.
March 19, 2007 Newsweek: Miller came to the defense of Richard Cizik, who grew increasingly more liberal in the evangelical world until he started getting rejected and became an Obama backer. She enjoyed the notion of an un-Christian Dr. James Dobson: "Last week Dobson, the paterfamilias of Focus on the Family and the religious right's standard-bearer and junkyard dog," wrote a letter against Cizik's global-warming-is-here activism. "Dobson's Lear-like fury may have backfired. Some prominent religious leaders refused to sign the letter, saying they found it un-Christian. "I didn't feel," says Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, "that it was the most productive, most redemptive way to address the problem."
So keep this in mind as Miller unleashes on Santorum and Graham now:
With rhetoric like this, these Christian conservatives are playing an ancient game. They are using religion to separate the world into "us" and "them." They are saying, "The president is not like us."
....Religion has done much good in the world, but it becomes dangerous when the "us and them" worldview grows rigid - when "we" claim moral (or theological) superiority over others. No one should know this better than Santorum, for Roman Catholics have been among the most persecuted groups in America. Yet for Santorum, history has had no modulating effect. The "phony" remark seems, at worst, calculated to remind voters of Wright and the "liberation theology" he preached, and in so doing to incite racism and fear.
America was founded by people who hoped that by allowing religious diversity to flourish, they might discourage extremism from growing. Counter to the claims of so many Christian conservatives, the intent of the First Amendment is not to protect any particular brand of Christianity from government encroachments, but to allow all kinds of believers to practice freely.
"I hate polemical politics and polemical divinity," a politician once said. "My religion is founded on the love of God and my neighbor; on the hope of pardon for my offenses; upon contrition . . . in the duty of doing no wrong, but all the good I can, to the creation of which I am but an infinitesimal part."
It is only unfortunate that these sentiments were those of John Adams - and that they are two centuries old.
Naturally, Miller roared in defense of Obama's statement of faith in "Dreams From My Father," about finding Jesus with Rev. Jeremiah Wright. She even defended Rev. God Damn America: "Perhaps in Trinity's fiery pastor, Jeremiah Wright, Obama found a guide to faith -- a man of great learning, musical talent and homiletic gifts -- and a friend whose friendship he would live to regret."