16 November 2006

Of The Theocrat Menace.

In the New York Times (of all places), Books & Culture editor John Wilson exposes the loopiness and general ignorance of those who hammer out Warning! for fear of evangelical "theocrats":

" . . . Many years ago, when I was teaching English at a large state university, I sat through part of a faculty debate on the problem posed by evangelical groups who were “proselytizing.” These professors, you understand, were fully committed to free speech — they’d swear to it, so help me Mario Savio — but they were concerned about the vulnerability of impressionable young minds to the seductive wiles of Campus Crusade for Christ, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and other such evangelical organizations.

I left while the hand-wringing was still in progress and walked across the campus, passing a row of tables. One displayed books published by Progress Press, including works by Lenin and some classics of Socialist Realism. The books were dingy, as if they had been sitting outside for a long time, but I was tempted by Viktor Shklovsky’s study of Tolstoy. The fellow who took my money — studious, by the look of him, and with hair almost as long as mine — wanted me, improbably enough, to become a Communist.

The university was a marketplace of ideas. Wherever I turned, someone was trying to persuade me to do something. A young woman in a fetching tank top wanted me to join the army of the credit-card indebted. (I had already enlisted and re-upped, foolishly, at great eventual cost before I was discharged.) A couple of beefy guys wanted me to drink beer and do whatever else fraternity guys do. But some ideas are more threatening than others. So the evangelicals were a problem.

Evidently we still are. But such is life in a pluralistic nation. Even as book after book sounds the alarm about the evangelical menace — coming in January, Chris Hedges’ “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America” — conservative evangelical activists are sending out fund-raising letters portraying themselves as a beleaguered remnant. The reality, as usual, is considerably messier."

Here's the whole thing. Cited some time ago, but Ross Douthat has already accomplished a complete dimantling of the paranoid stylings of the theocracy alarmists.


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