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Overheated Rhetoric

What should we make of bestselling books blasting Christians?

Evangelicals have spawned a prosperous new publishing enterprise—one heralded even by The New York Times.

The problem is, these aren't our books, but books about us, books that stridently attack conservative Christians as "theocrats" and "fascists"—evangelical mullahs intent on replacing the government with our own "religion-soaked political regimes," as one overheated author put it.

Conservative guru Kevin Phillips offered one of the first books, American Theocracy, which accuses President Bush of sending secret coded messages to the faithful in his speeches. Nixon aide turned whistleblower John Dean followed, attributing all the evils in American life to conservatives and the Religious Right.

Just a week before the 2006 election (coincidence?), former Bush aide David Kuo published a book accusing the White House of cynically exploiting evangelicals for political gain. He recommended that evangelicals "fast" from politics for a time. Randall Balmer, an evangelical himself, authored Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America, in which he claims that right-wing "zealots" have hijacked the evangelical faith and distorted the gospel.

Erstwhile friends produced these books; they're gentle compared to what our opponents wrote.

Daniel Dennett, in Breaking the Spell, suggests that religion is a toxin that may be poisoning believers in ways they don't suspect. Then came the bombshell rant, The God Delusion, by Oxford professor Richard Dawkins, who said he considers religious instruction a form of child abuse and urged governments to put a stop to it. The coup de grace was Chris Hedges's American Fascists, which claimed violence-prone Christians intend to impose totalitarian rule.

What ...

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Christianity Today
Overheated Rhetoric
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In the Magazine

June 2007

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