FUNDAMENTALISM WATCH I

A disturbing report on how some evangelical Christians are beginning to make the military a formally sectarian place. Of course evangelicals have an absolute right to practise their faith in a military context. But not at the expense of marginalizing others – or of unit cohesion. I cannot think of a shift more likely to strengthen the notion that we are in a war between Christianity and Islam, rather than a war to protect us all from religious fanaticism allied with violence.

FUNDAMENTALISM WATCH II: A closer look at the implications of the Alabama law that would ban books by gay authors in public schools shows its scope is much, much wider.

FUNDAMENTALISM WATCH III: Another outrageous calumny from the religious right is debunked by the Wall Street Journal. Too bad the debunking won’t stop Texas from passing yet another law to attack gay people.

FUNDAMENTALISM WATCH IV: Here’s a cheerful piece of religious propaganda … from a mayor in a town called Lebanon, Tennessee. Money quote from his letter to the citizens of that town:

Man has achieved highs and suffered lows during our history of struggling with the wiles of Satan in Satanx92s quest for our souls. We have only and can only reach the heights of victory when we surrender ourselves completely to God and only when He intervenes on our behalf—and such has been our history. When the burden of man and our desires became such that the intervention of God would require the ultimate sacrifice to be paid, God paid it all. When our only recourse was to have a savior, God sent us Jesus.

And if you’re Jewish or an atheist? You don’t really belong in Lebanon, Tennessee, do you? (Hat tip: Nashville Scene.) Readers are invited to send in equally sectarian messages from public officials allegedly elected to serve all citizens equally, regardless of their faith.

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MORE DEBATE

I respond to a couple of Jonah Goldberg’s points on my “Crisis of Faith” essay on the debate page here. Readers also offer criticism, and support. Check it out. I’ll also be on the Chris Matthews Show again this Sunday with MoDo.

BRIT ELECTION ADS

They’re really, really good. Take a look. (And, yes, they’re spoofs.)

GAY TORIES

Just look at how Britain’s Conservative party has embraced gay unions, openly gay soldiers, and included gay candidates and moved past prejudice. My friend Nick Boles is running for parliament in the county I grew up in. Money quote from a column about his race:

I got to a front door in Elm Drive just as Mr Boles had finished a sympathetic chat with the single mum within. x93Is he married?x94 she whispered as he strode off.

x93Hex92s gay,x94 I said.

Her face fell. x93Tell him: x91No problemx92,x94 she said x97 then giggled, x93but tell him Ix92m disappointed.x94

x93It makes no difference,x94 was the almost universal response.

x93Whatx92s that got to do with it?x94 voters would remark reproachfully. Little Britain may feature the only gay man in Llanddewi Brefi but here on the Sussex coast we sought an even more elusive character: the only homophobe in Hove.

Why cannot the Republicans be as grown up?

A CONSERVATIVE OF DOUBT? After the frogs, the locusts

I’m an old Tory. I don’t want anyone telling me how to live, and I think society will keep its shape well enough if we all cleave to some common, traditional understandings, support a strong executive leadership on the rare occasions it’s called for, give over our minds to communal religious observances for an hour or two per month, and mind our own businesses the rest of the time. I don’t want anything to do with the law, unless I get mugged and need to stand witness, or my neighbor starts dumping his garbage in my yard. I think Congress should sit no more than ten days a year, 15 max. Leave us alone, for Pete’s sake. The purpose of law is (a) to suppress private feuds, and (b) to identify and punish criminals. It’s not to tell me how or where to live, or when to die. Let me figure that stuff out for myself. Otherwise, leave me alone. This used to be bedrock Americanism. Nowadays it’s come to sound eccentric.

Yep, that’s John Derbyshire, the constant object of my ire. Yes, what he means by “common, traditional understandings” is not what I mean. And I’m not going to take back my criticisms of some of his more prejudiced harrumphs. But at some deep level, we agree about politics’ role, and disdain for religious zeal in politics. He was as horrified as I was by the Schiavo hysteria. Maybe it’s our common English roots (although I have a very hefty dose of Irish genes). But I’m glad to see that not everyone at NRO has been drinking the big moral government Kool-Aid.

INSTAPUNDIT

The president’s press conference last night was, I think, perhaps his best ever. He was confident, in command of the facts, moderate in his views, engaging and appealing. It was much better than anything we’ve seen in a very long time; and it makes me wonder why his handlers keep him in such hermetically-sealed partisan settings. He’s better than that; and it seems to me he keeps getting better in these contexts. I tend to agree with him on social security reform, although I’m unconvinced that we can actually afford the transition costs, given how profligate his administration has been for the past four years. It was also gratifying to hear him distance himself from the abuse of religion for political purposes that much of his base and Congressional allies have been indulging in lately. Presumably he understands the need to pull back from the fundamentalist temptation. He described his notion of religious faith as essentially “personal” and one in which people lead by example, not by legislating their own religious views. Sounds more like my position than, say, Ramesh Ponnuru’s. He was also strong on Bolton. The weaknesses, however, were also evident. He really doesn’t have a coherent strategy toward North Korea, which is getting more dangerous by the day. His defense of rendition struck me as weak. He referred to states to whom we send alleged terrorists as those “who say they don’t practise torture.” Not exactly reassuring, especially as he’s referring, among other countries, to Syria and Egypt. He knows they practise torture; just as he knows that his own administration has refused to disclose the techniques that the CIA still uses. The evidence of escalating terror attacks was also a weak spot. He could say that the increase in terror is a function of our going on the offensive, but he meandered around the point. Still, it was an impressive performance over all: at ease, in command, and effective. I doubt it will shift the public mood, which is souring on the Republican hegemony. But it certainly reassured me that he is trying to tack away from the extreme right. Whether he can keep riding the tiger of religious zeal, while not falling off, remains to be seen. But in this press conference he struck me as a conservative of doubt more than one of fundamentalist faith.

A DEBATE ON TORTURE: Marty Lederman reports on a fascinating Columbia Law School debate between Professor Jeremy Waldron, of Columbia, and John Yoo, of the Boalt Law School. Yoo was in the Bush administration and was an architect of the decision to allow torture of detainees captured by U.S. soldiers. Well worth reading and pondering. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal continues its attempt to excuse the widespread abuse and torture as a function of a handful of unsupervised rogues. This sentence stands out:

The media and Congressional Democrats flogged the Abu Ghraib story for months throughout the 2004 election year, with a goal of stripping the Iraq War of moral authority and turning President Bush into another LBJ.

Really? Has it occurred to them that many people objected to what happened because they were morally outraged, because they thought this hindered the war effort, because White House memos seemed to give a green or amber light to these abuses, and because official reports cited those memos as adding to the circumstances that made Abu Ghraib and the murder-by-torture of over 30 detainees possible. The WSJ claims that none of the abuses were related to interrogation. It’s worth repeating: there were no instances of prisoner abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan and Guantanamo that were discovered in any military facilities that were not geared toward interrogation.

DOES GLENN KNOW ABOUT THIS? Banning new books in public libraries that feature any gay characters or are written by gay authors? There are no theocratic tendencies among the Republicans, are there? My favorite quote from <a href = http

//www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/04/26/eveningnews/main691106.shtml target = _blank>the bigot behind this: “I don’t look at it as censorship,” says Alabama State Representative Gerald Allen. “I look at it as protecting the hearts and souls and minds of our children.” The guy wanted to ban some Shakespeare. But Capote, Wilde, Auden, Proust and who knows who else will be barred. Government as the protector of souls. What are these “hysterics” worrying about “theocratic impulses” going on about?