Jewish World Review Nov. 16, 2004/ 3 Kislev, 5765

Wesley Pruden

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The harsh theology of the elites | So many of our notabilities have hoist themselves on petards that our petard supply is exhausted.

That's why some of our celebrity columnists, movie stars and professorial sex objects are investigating the immigration requirements for fleeing to Canada, France, both Upper and Lower Volta and the lesser and outer Antilles, where the strains and stresses of good citizenship may not be as fatiguing as life in the vicinity of the red states.

Manhattan lies all but lifeless in the gloom of a particularly dark shade of blue. Every psychiatric clinic on the Upper East Side has a waiting list from now until Memorial Day. Our dear friends at the New York Times are terrified that they're about to be sentenced to Wednesday-night prayer meeting and consigned to Sunday-morning Bible study. There's not a dry pair of skivvies in the entire newsroom. (Well, maybe Bill Safire's.) The fundamentalist and evangelical seizure of the political and social infrastructure of the republic is all but complete and the sawing and hammering keeping the elites awake is the sound of carpenters building a gallows at every blue-state crossroads. Some of the scraps will be used to stoke the fires under particularly odious heretics.

These are supposed to be serious people, but we haven't heard so much public policy cast in hyper-heated religious rhetoric since Henry VIII set about recruiting and dispatching his wives. Our tutors in the silk-stocking precincts imagine that the only way to rid the world of religious bigotry is to smother it under the weight of secular dogma and temporal zealotry.

Mzz Maureen Dowd, the Bloody Mary of the op-ed page, loathes everything about Anglo-Saxon Protestants, having never reconciled herself to the failure of the Irish to fully redeem the auld sod, and she takes it out on anyone named Bush, particularly such an enthusiastically unrepentant Protestant as the most famous Methodist from Midland. She writes that George W. should be excommunicated for promoting "a jihad in America so he can fight one in Iraq." (It's not clear how, since Methodists have no pope, nor even archbishops or a single right reverend.)

Thomas Friedman reckons that only people as evil as Christian fundamentalists could "promote divisions and intolerance at home and abroad." Gary Wills, who imagines that only something as tried and tested as the rack could squeeze apostasy and wring heresy from the body politic, writes that the only places where you could find "fundamentalist zeal, a rage at secularity, religious intolerance, fear of and hatred for modernity" are among red-state Christians (Baptists and Methodists, mostly) and among the Muslims of al Qaeda in, of all the places they've been telling us they aren't, Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

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"There is hypocrisy and self-contradiction," Paul Marshall, a fellow at Freedom House and the author of several books on politics and religion, writes of these confused jaspers in the current Weekly Standard. "[Tom] Friedman seems blissfully unaware that, even as he condemns others for holding out their particular faith as supreme, he is asserting the supremacy of his own passionately held view. His secularist critique attempts the miraculous combination of denouncing others' faith while attacking those who denounce others' faith. Do not try this trick at home. It should be attempted only by seasoned professionals who lack any capacity for self-criticism or even self-awareness."

This is all passing strange. First our tutors lecture us that Islam is a religion of peace, that only bigots think otherwise. Now they're telling us that the faith of red-state Christians is so vile that it can only be compared to the beliefs of Muslims in Saudi Arabia and Iraq — that red-state Christians are as bad as the red-hots of al Qaeda in Saddam Hussein's Iraq, where only yesterday we were told there was no al Qaeda.

But it's not just the scribes. The Pharisees, too. Joe Biden, the Delaware senator who was so sure in midafternoon of Nov. 2 that he was to be the secretary of state in the first Kerry administration that he slipped over to inspect his parking place in Foggy Bottom, called the late presidential campaign a "death struggle between freedom and radical fundamentalism." Al Gore calls George W.'s Methodist beliefs "the same fundamentalist impulse that we see in Saudi Arabia, in Kashmir and in the religions around the world."

Al might have included, but didn't, Carthage, Tenn., in this bizarre geographic and theological litany, since that's where Al was baptized into a Baptist congregation upon profession of a born-again faith identical to George W.'s. Al, like the rest of the elites, knows better, of course. But in politics nothing is sacred.

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

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