Issue Date: December 17, 2004
From the Editor's Desk
Respite from reduced religion
Evidence is abundant that among the nervous tics of the age is the urge to reduce religion to a set of manageable rules; to shrink God to proportions that we can manipulate around our social and political formulae; and to turn the heat up on the divisions among faith groups.
It all makes for a rather pinched and barren spiritual vision. It is our hope that, in general terms, NCR offers respite from such notions. More specifically, I think youll find considerable nourishment in this weeks special section on Spirituality , compiled and edited by Teresa Malcolm ( see story). On the way to that section, dont skip too quickly over the essay, The mystical vision of Louis Massignon. The account of his life, which spanned most of the last century, alone would make it a worthwhile read. His dedication to understanding and then conveying to others the essentials and the goodness of Islam was never more deeply needed than it is today ( see story).
Political junkies finding it difficult to transition from campaign fervor to normal life have been helped by the seemingly endless post-election ruminating and second guessing (see story). Through all of the pondering, however, Ive heard little notice given to TV preacher Pat Robertson and his still boyish-looking buddy, Ralph Reed, a Republican strategist who was once the political mastermind of the Robertson empire.
If Karl Rove is this years political genius, he must certainly owe some of the credit to Robertson/Reed and the foundations theyve been laying in the party for the past two decades.
Remember stealth candidates? The Christian Coalition? All that early talk about Gods involvement in Americas politics and in U.S. foreign policy?
Fringy stuff back then, perhaps, but dont think that Robertson didnt have something to do with plowing the ground to rural Ohioans whom Rove was able to convince to vote against their own best economic interests in the name of values, the meaning of which well still be pondering when the four-year cycle trips around once more.
Robertson has said enough strange stuff that someone with the stomach for mucking around in such material might compile a textbook-size compendium of his wacky theology. He has certainly taken a much lower profile of late, with limited appearances on TV news shows. But he must also look with some satisfaction on his legacy.
And he obviously is still able to convince viewers to send in enough money to keep him on the air.
There is speculation enough for four years worth of workshops on why this election turned out the way it did. Certainly Roves genius had lots to do with it. President Bush may make absolute hash of the language, but got it right often enough to convince a 21st-century populace that much of the worlds complexity can be reduced to either-or.
Bush and Rove didnt do it without help. Thats why I tip my hat to the Rev. Pat. He was one of the earliest to tap into that mix, so malleable in the hands of the right artisan, of fear and religiosity. To the unsettled he brought a gospel of certainty, of prosperity. His was a god not beyond knowing, but one the Rev. Pat knew right down to his political preferences and foreign policy choices. He prepared the way.
-- Tom Roberts
National Catholic Reporter, December 17, 2004
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