Here’s an interesting article: http://www.southbendtribune.com/stories/2005/10/06/faith.20051006-sbt-MICH-D4-Theologians_debate_m.sto
In part is reads, “ "The country is not yet a theocracy but the Republican Party is," Moyers charged. "Democracy is in peril." He compared conservative Christian activists with Muslim terrorists who can cite "many verses in the Quran" as grounds "for waging war for God's sake." America's "homegrown ayatollahs," he stated, are deceitful bullies whose "viral intolerance" undergirds "an unprecedented sectarian crusade for state power" and "political holy war financed by wealthy economic interests." ”
I’m tempted to poke Moyers in the eye for his endemic failure to see the clear moral distinction between even the most vitriolic smack-talking and a single act of intentional murder. I’m also tempted to berate Moyers for his totally irresponsible moider of da Queen’s English (Nyuck’ Nyuck’ Nyuck’)~ his extreme hyperbole in the use of ‘theocracy’ or ‘ayatollahs’ displays either a total ignorance of those words real meaning or recklessness with the images they concoct.
But what I’m really interested in is this bit, “an unprecedented sectarian crusade for state power.”
It wasn’t very long ago that both politics and the press had a kind of monopoly on the information they worked with. It was axiomatic that knowledge was power – and they traded in that power. It was a world where somebody in Moyers shoes could say virtually anything they wanted and there was very little anybody could do about it. They were unchallenged, uncompetitive and above accountability.
But the internet, among other technologies, has caused a sea change on the nature of information and how it gets both shared and vetted. The shift is both subtle and profound – a whisper heard ‘round the world.
Case in point: the unprecedented move that Moyers bemoans is nothing more than the fact that his authority is being challenged by people he thinks beneath him. Christians found their long-dormant energy in the last several years, particularly since 911, and they are simple participating in the public sphere where they had been largely absent for the previous 40 years. It’s worth remembering the famous FDR quote. When asked what his philosophy was (a socialist, a fascist, etc) he responded “...I’m a Christian and I’m a Democrat.” At that time – in an age our grandparents still remember – a sincere Christian in public office was no novelty. But sometime later, I reckon near the late 50’s, Christians lost their voice in public debate. Not because it was beaten out of them, or they were defeated in the realm of ideas, but more because they got tired of fighting and simply stopped. So we have a generation of politicians and pundits, Moyers et.al, who came to their own with nary a whimper from the church and the right ~ so from Moyers stands it really must seem like an aberration to hear Christians saying anything at all, much less competing for real cultural dominance.
Here’s another anecdote to illustrate this point. Oregon was in the middle of a debate of gay marriage this last year (Measure 36). There was an article in the Oregonian where they quoted one of the leaders on the No on 36 (pro-gay-marriage) side saying that he was used to dealing with Christians like that moron in Oklahoma with the “God Hate’s Fags” signs. In his mind ALL Christians (and by extension all Republicans (he said it, not me)) were vile, hateful, mean sons-of-bitches. But he said that this debate had brought him into contact with an incredibly broad, intelligent, sincere, and articulate Christians that he never knew existed. What was refreshing was that he recognized that something different was happening...he was now dealing with a group of people who were not cavemen, were not hillbillies, and were NOT ayatollahs seeking a theocracy. (Measure 36 passed by the way).
Which brings me to my point. Moyers is whining like a little baby because he’s unaccustomed to having the peasants reply to (God forbid question!) his ivory tower wisdom. Dan Rather was simply the first noble to be guillotined in this revolution...and Moyers probably sees his fate approaching. I think the politicians are experiencing the exact same kind of paradigm shift but since their mutational generations are much shorter than the press, they’re responding more quickly. It should be noted that this is not a left vs. right thing though. It just so happens that at this moment the left is more distant from middle America than the right is – but that could change in 60 days. In short, this whole open-source/blogosphere/flash-mob phase has made snake oil MUCH MUCH harder to sell, whatever flavor it might be.
In closing, the church is finding its voice again...and using it. We’re simply throwing our two cents into the marketplace of ideas, and people are buying. That irritates Bill Moyers and he’s responding like Marie Antoinette. Vocal, participatory Christians are not at all new in this country and by no means “unprecedented.”
I don’t want to stray too far from my main point in this post, but I do think that this is the direct result of what’s been happening inside the church for the last several years. Specifically a growing focus on Christian community (as opposed to isolationism) lead by the Spirit, and a rediscovery (hello!) of authentic Christian masculinity...but I digress.