Jewish World Review April 18, 2005/ 9 Nissan, 5765

Wesley Pruden

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Trying to play the Jesus card | Howard Dean, the chief screamer and chairman of the Democratic National Committee, thinks he has the formula for a Democratic revival:

Jesus, guns and balanced budgets.

He told Arkansas newspaper columnist John Brummett on the eve of a meeting of state chairmen in Little Rock that he wants Democrats to speak up for "values."

"We need to talk about Christian values and how they're Democratic values," he said. "Jesus taught to help the least among us. He spent his life reaching out to the disenfranchised. The Democratic Party is the party of that value, not the Republican Party."

His proposition was once at least arguable, and he found a ripe target for one needling remark: "I was a governor who balanced eight budgets in a row, which is eight more than the Republicans, and I was a governor who was endorsed every year by the National Rifle Association."

But he's also the governor who, trying to sound like a tent-revival Democrat, boasted that his favorite New Testament book was the Book of Job, which would have amused Job himself, being a nice Jewish boy whose manifold afflictions were set out in the Hebrew Bible. Little Howard was not the attentive Sunday school boy he should have been.

Nevertheless, we take heart when and where we can, and the Lord loves a cheerfully serious penitent. If Howard Dean can point the Democrats to a sawdust trail that leads to the old-time religion, well, huzzah and hallelujah. But he must take his lunch to the task, because it's likely to be an all-day job.

A remarkable three-part series by Julia Duin in The Washington Times sets out the furious secular campaign against the very idea of religious values, mocking in particular the faith of Christians. It's the staunchest of Democratic Party allies who are leading the attack. Many Christians, and many Americans of other persuasions or of no faith at all, see the threat to cut the national culture loose from its Judeo-Christian roots as aggressive, virulent and growing.

Leading the assault are the American Civil Liberties Union, which has never met a sordid cause it couldn't embrace, and advocacy groups called Americans United for Separation of Church and State and People for the American Way. Their stated goal is a naked public square, devoid of all evidence of the nation's identification with the worship of God, and ultimately a nation remade in the image of man. Their complaints against the faithful descend into the petty and spiteful; one group of litigious atheists even sued to prevent the football team at the University of Wisconsin from pre-game prayer in their locker room, well out of sight of atheists and others whose delicate psyches may have been vulnerable in the stands.

The skeptics have adopted Thomas Jefferson as their patron saint, citing him, correctly, as the author of the idea of a wall between church and state. The phrase, "separation of church and state," does not appear in the Constitution, but was taken from Jefferson's famous letter to the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut, in which he told them that he contemplated "with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and state."

Jefferson actually wrote to the Baptists, for whom separation of church and state has always been an article of strongly held conviction, to persuade them that a state-established church — such as the Congregational or the Anglican in several states — would not harm their own beliefs. On another occasion, Jefferson said that "it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are 20 gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."

But merely to speak of God, and particularly to speak of Jesus, sets atheist hair, where there is any, afire. Mocking faith, and particularly the faith of Christians, has become the sport of secularists. Writes Los Angeles Times columnist Burt Prelutsky, who takes pains to identify himself as a Jew: "Anti-Semitism is no longer a problem in society — it's been replaced by a rampant anti-Christianity."

The bad news for Howard Dean and the Democrats is that the anti-Christian soldiers are nearly all Democrats. If he wants to teach Democrats to sing hymns to red-state "values," he'll have to tell some of his allies to stifle themselves, and learn the words himself before he strikes up the band.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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