If Communists brush their teeth regularly, should evangelicals knock theirs out?

Certain plants, such as the marigold, are heliotropic: they naturally turn toward the sun. Certain evangelicals could well be termed isolatropic: they naturally turn away from society’s problems toward a narrow separationism. Whatever good is advocated outside the limited confines of the evangelical community is suspect per se; if it does not square, in content and vocabulary, with the model of nineteenth-century revival preaching, its demonic origin is considered self-evident.

That this mentality is still very much with us can hardly be better illustrated than in the field of human rights. When Jimmy Carter makes universal respect for human dignity at least a theoretical cornerstone of his presidential policy, certain evangelicals take this as an illustration of a less than thoroughly conservative theology (“the Bible talks about human responsibilities, not human rights”). When the International Year of the Child is proclaimed, an undercurrent of evangelical criticism is heard everywhere: the IYC is a Communist plot, typically promoted through the United Nations, to take children from the tutelage of their parents so that they can be indoctrinated by the socialist state. The Council of Europe, with its European Court of Human Rights—the most sophisticated juridical human rights machinery in the world—is turned into an apocalyptic agent of Antichrist by the evangelical prophetomaniacs (the members of the council, we are told, are the toes of the eschatological image in Daniel 2).

One hesitates to dignify the silliness of such attitudes by formal criticism. To take an obvious example: the European states in the Council of Europe presently number ...

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