Politics: December 2006 Archives

Real Theocracy

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I've said many times before that I think anyone who is seriously worried about theocracy in the United States in the near future is basically paranoid and ignorant. This view requires being paranoid about the likelihood of theocratic extremists getting a hold even on evangelicalism, never mind of the government. It relies on gross ignorance of what evangelicals actually believe and of how remote from the center of evangelicalism the radical extremists called dominionists really are. The people holding this ridiculous view aren't really complaining about theocracy to begin with, when it really comes down to it. It's more a complaint about people who think undefended moral views can be a basis for favoring a particular public policy. Since virtually everyone thinks that, at least in practice, it's pretty silly to complain about others who do it simply because their undefended moral views are also undefended religious views.

But there is a movement in another country right now toward something that literally would be theocracy. 48 members of the Polish Parliament want to name Jesus Christ as the King of Poland. This one is also extremely unlikely to happen, but it is technically theocracy in a very grossly literalistic way. Their proposal wouldn't make Poland a theocracy in practice, just in theory, the way the United Kingdom isn't really a monarchy in practice, just in theory. But it would, technically, be theocracy, at least given the premise that Jesus Christ is indeed God, as these Polish members of Parliament surely think.

For the record, Eugene Volokh's speculation (in the above-linked post) as to the reasons why the Roman Catholic Church opposes this move is wrong. At present Roman Catholicism officially believes the historic position of Christianity that most Protestants also believe (at least in theory), which is that the church is not a political entity but a spiritual entity. It has no earthly domain, and where the medieval view went wrong was in thinking that Christianity could control certain territory to begin with. In a sense he's right that this move would serve to downgrade Jesus' authority, but it's not for the reasons he gives. It's because political authority is already all under God's sovereignty, and making Jesus just like an earthly king, even one with absolute power within a certain domain, is to downgrade someone who has in his death and resurrection been declared the king of all creation and has just yet not returned to claim that and to overthrow all realms who would oppose his reign. This move both denies the futurity of his reign and affirms a more limited, superficial kind of reign now.

Phil Vischer, creator of Veggie Tales, gives an account of why he thinks The Nativity Story bombed. Key quote:

No intrigue about the artistic vision, combined with no intrigue about the subject matter, leaves a movie with very little to stand on except, "Hey Christians! Please come see our movie about your savior! We made it just for you!" And that pitch, as Hollywood is about to learn, will only get you so far.

In some ways, this is another example of what we regularly see in politics. The leadership of the GOP is much better at coming up with policy proposals that evangelicals will accept. There's also such a clear sense of a lack of genuineness coming from many on the left who try to come off as religiously sensitive but just end up appearing religiously ignorant. Howard Dean and John Kerry don't come across as a genuine Christian to most evangelicals, but neither should Newt Gingrich or Rudy Giuliani. Most importantly, there's always the worry that evangelicals' concerns aren't at the heart of any candidate's views, and attempts to satisfy evangelicals will then just amount to vote-grabbing with no real concern for those issues.

Here's the latest version with a couple additions (Hunter, Thompson) and some subtractions (Frist, Allen). For some reason they left out Michael Smith, who with Duncan Hunter is one of the only two who has declared a candidacy. They also removed George Allen, who hasn't yet officially bowed out, and they haven't added Jim Gilmore and Frank Keating, two former governors who have indicated serious interest in running (and the nominee is almost always a governor when at least one governor is running).

News Bias?

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Last night I was listening to what I think must have been the BBC news feed on the local NPR station. (At first I was remembering it as the Canadian show "As It Happens", which is on just before it, but I just listened to the end of their show online, and it's not there. So it must have been the beginning of the BBC news.) They were reporting what they seemed to consider Secretary of Defense nominee pulling a fast one on President Bush. They reported him as having said that we are not winning in Iraq in response to a question from a senator on the Armed Services Committee. I remember wondering if that amounted to an admission that we were losing, because I thought someone could think exactly that without thinking that we were losing. In fact that seems to me to be the most honest view of the situation at the moment. But they immediately changed the subject without addressing the issue. (It also struck me as a rather gleeful announcement of something that can't by any morally healthy person be judged as a good thing.)

This morning NPR was reporting on the same event. They reported it a little differently, however. They said the same thing, pretty much, but then they added something that I think is pretty crucial to honest reporting (given what I now know because of the NPR report). Without pausing, the reporter followed with something like "but immediately added that he did not think we were losing either". I mentioned this to Sam, and she said the BBC feed that NPR was playing last night had at least three times repeated that clip about not winning without even bothering to mention that Gates didn't think we weren't losing either. This is three times repeated in just an hour-long broadcast. This is also despite their obviously being aware of his full statement, since they have it on their website.

But then I guess this is just the more balanced news media that you get outside the U.S. where the media aren't beholden to the Bush Administration the way a lot of the lefty blogs are telling us the U.S. media are. I guess if you're not beholden to the Bush Administration, you can ignore any facts that are inconvenient to report. I'm having trouble thinking of any excusable reason, never mind a justifiable one, not to report such an important qualification by the nominee. It strikes me pretty obvious evidence of an agenda in news reporting. It was just this kind of thing on CNN (as compared with MSNBC and Fox News) during the original Iraq invasion that led me to stop watching that network. They would report American soldiers shooting on civilians without reporting that most of those disguised as civilians at roadblocks were getting up to the roadblock and then blowing up their vehicles. They so clearly wanted to show anything bad about the war and refused to report facts that both the other networks were including that would mitigate the negative appearance.

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