John Danforth, a former member of the U.S. Senate and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, has offered two stinging critiques of the so-called “religious right” in recent weeks. The latest comes in the form of an interview with The Washington Post in which Danforth, an ordained Episcopal priest, presents himself as a counter-voice to conservative evangelicals. His immediate concern is the future of the Republican Party, but his words actually reveal far deeper issues.
According to the Post, Danforth opposes “the us-versus-them, my-God-is-bigger-than-your-God, velvet-fist variety of Christian evangelism.”
More: A man of God and the GOP, he is speaking out for moderation — in religion, politics, science and government. The lanky figure once dubbed “St. Jack,” not always warmly, for the perch he seemed to occupy on Washington’s moral high ground, expects people will sour on the assertive brand of Christianity so closely branded Republican. “I’m counting on nausea,” he says.
Danforth paints his critical portrait of evangelicals with a broad brush. Speaking of the religious right, he says: “With confidence that it is the mouthpiece for God, it endorses candidates, supports constitutional amendments and mobilizes campaigns to keep poor souls hooked up to feeding tubes,” Danforth says. “It calls its opponents ‘enemies of the people of faith.’ Today that is the style and, I think, the sin of the Christian right.”
Well, evangelicals should be ready to hear criticism from any credible source. Conservative Christians certainly have a tendency toward triumphalism and far too much confidence in the political process. Still, there is something about Sen. Danforth’s critique that robs his arguments of much helpfulness or relevance, which is a shame.
He attacks conservative Christians for being concerned about the case of Terri Schaivo and for opposing embryonic stem cell research. But he just dismisses the human dignity issues out of hand, offering no Christian argument for any alternative position. He simply dodges the hard questions in order to beat up on evangelicals. This is cowardice in the form of political posturing.
Then, when he raises the issue of efforts to legislate against gay marriage, he dismisses evangelicals with these words: “It’s just cussedness.” Just cussedness? Conservative Christians oppose same-sex marriage only because they are mean and cranky? This is not an argument worthy of a man of his experience and intelligence. What about his concern for the institution of marriage? What about the fact that the Christian church has been firm on its convictions concerning homosexuality for twenty centuries? Cussedness?
We deserve and expect better, Mr. Danforth.
SOURCE IT: Mr. Danforth also offered similar arguments in this article published in the March 30, 2005 edition of The New York Times.