Last month former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich dismissed faith leaders who worked to pass health care reform as socialists looking for another opportunity to redistribute wealth. This came on the heels of his release of a book warning of Democrats’ “secular-socialist machine” working to drive God out of public life. Before that, he played an instrumental role in stirring up opposition to the president’s commencement speech at Notre Dame, saying Obama has “anti-Catholic values” (at the time, Gingrich had not yet converted to Catholicism). In other words, Gingrich has a track record as a self-appointed judge of other people’s faith.
But Mr. Speaker, did you find it at all disingenuous, because some people are analyzing that this morning as saying it was disingenuous from a president who does not go to Church on a regular basis?
Well, I hope he means it. [...] I’m sad that it took a crisis of this scale, but I’m delighted that the president has recognized that we in fact all are subordinate to a larger God and that we need to seek guidance from that God.
Gingrich declined to directly challenge Obama’s faith, and even gave him qualified praise, but saying “…I hope he means it” is a subtle way to cast doubt on the president’s faith. Why would Gingrich “hope” President Obama means it, unless he suspected the president was being insincere? For Gingrich, the segment is a step toward civility, but it shows he still has a lot of room to improve when it comes to respecting other people’s faith.
“…Government makes our country function. To put God first is to put humankind first. To put humankind first is to put the common good first.”
Glenn Beck responds:
“This leads to death camps. A Jew, of all people, should know that. This is exactly the kind of talk that led to the death camps in Germany. Put humankind and the common good first.”
I am totally flabbergasted by this insane “logic.” Particularly in light of Newt Gingrich’s comments today, in which he backed down from his comparison of the Obama administration to Nazi Germany, I would’ve thought conservative commentators would have started to wise up. Incendiary and irrational statements like this, particularly ones which reference a horrific moment in history, are not only cruel, but also undermine the shreds of credibility they have left.
Listen to the whole excerpt here, or see the transcript over at Media Matters:
…Glenn Beck has a history recklessly invoking Nazi Germany and the Holocaust in order to advance his political agenda. But never before has Beck accused Jews – including survivors of the Holocaust and their children and grandchildren – of paving the way for fascism. Through his comments, Beck has demonstrated that he has no idea what leads to fascism. Jews and others, who were victims of the Holocaust, do not have the luxury of his ignorance.
Beck’s reflexive hatred for government is rejected by Americans of all backgrounds, who have seen the powerful role government can play in providing us with greater freedom, security, and opportunity. I am proud of the work we do at Jewish Funds for Justice, where our belief that we are all made in the image of the divine compels us to petition private enterprise, charities, and yes, the government, to do their part to ensure our shared divinity.
First lady Michelle Obama came face-to-face with the sometimes-uncomfortable repercussions of the nation’s immigration-enforcement policies Wednesday when a second-grader voiced her worries that her mother might be deported. [emphasis added]
Seriously. Having your foot fall asleep is uncomfortable; having your mom taken away is traumatic.
Normally we’re pretty happy when the faith community’s work on important issues like immigration reform get noticed in the press (like this great piece from TIME).
However, on occasion the faith communities advocacy attracts attention from some, er, odd quarters.
Take this piece from the hilariously named “Accuracy in Media.”
They’re none too pleased with faith groups, particularly the Catholic church, advocating for comprehensive immigration reform:
Russell is honest about the motivation behind these efforts, noting that the Catholic Bishops and their agencies, some of which get government money to provide services to illegal aliens, “benefit from immigration by increasing the number of Catholics in the United States.”
Yeah, because there is so much money in providing immigrant services, especially for those without papers. Why didn’t we think of this earlier?
Which of these faith groups is the most politically active?
White Mainline Protestants
If you answered B, you would be … wrong. At least, according to some new analysis from Mark Chaves at Duke Divinity school.
The chart below is makingtherounds around the blogosphere, probably because it contradicts the conventional wisdom that when it comes to politics white, mostly conservative, Evangelicals leave all other faith groups in the dust.
While we’ve talked before about some of the reasons the media tend to be much more interested in the political activities of Evangelicals than, say, Mainline Protestants, this chart might shed some more light on the issue.
Painting with the broadest of brushes, Mainline Protestants tend to focus their activities on discussions and meetings, while Evangelicals tend to focus on more direct political organizing.
The kinds of direct activities that Mainline Protestants do participate in are likely to be either small-scale and quiet (lobbying) or so entwined in a greater effort that religious participation goes unnoticed (for example, coverage of an anti-war march will rarely mention the faith community’s presence).
As Professor Chaves says, “differences among religious groups in how they do politics seem more important than differences in how much politics they do.”
For Mainliners and others to close the media gap with Evangelicals, it might be a simple as continuing to employ new tactics in their already robust efforts.