Tuesday, December 18, 2012

James Dobson and Mike Huckabee

are terrible evangelists. That was the thought that stuck with me after reading one article after another with them both claiming in some form or fashion that gay marriage, separation of church and state, and various other worldly trends are the reason for the killings in Newtown.

Religious public figures often baffle me for several reasons. Not the least of which is the type of Christian self-denial that seems absent in the attention-seeking of everyone from Huckabee to Sharpton. Do they actually care about the religion they preach? And of course the cliche of the religious huckster is hard to forget, particularly when so many of them -- specifically the anti-gay ones -- seem to exist solely to raise money and pay their own salaries.

But deep down I do think Huckabee and his ilk believe what they're saying. I also think they like their salaries and their speaking fees and their hangers-on and their TV shows on Fox and their guest appearances on Jon Stewart. They like to surprise their liberal foes that they're actually pleasant and well-mannered, they know their way around a self-deprecating joke, and they're really just folks and not at all like the moralizing, judgmental, exclusive zealots their positions suggest.

What I don't get is how saying the things that both of these alleged men of God said this week could possibly evangelize, or could possibly reach the unconverted at all. How do you win over a skeptical public with such dubious, shameful, heinous sentiments?

That's why I think calling them evangelicals is a misnomer. These people are preaching to the converted. They're reaching out to their base to further a kind of institutional evangelism. Christianism, as Andrew Sullivan would describe it. Their goal is to get politics and government to do their work for them. If it's evangelism at all it's of a lazy, dictatorial sort. Get the converted to alter government to force religion on everyone and that's how we'll keep God alive. AND we get to go on talk shows!

And while it seems to work on the choir and nurture the preachers' vanity, greed, and other deadly sins, I do wonder what kind of a minister or a politician you are if you're unable to persuade with the power of your message and the soundness of your arguments.

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