In "God's Country," the lead article in the November 2 issue of the New York Review of Books, Joan Didion takes on a wide range of subjects: Marvin Olasky (editor of World magazine and influencer of George W. Bush), compassionate conservatism, faith-based social welfare programs, the recent presidential campaign, Joe Lieberman, and the proper place of religion in public life. There is much worth chewing on in all this, whatever one's position on such matters. (Didion is deadly, for instance, in observing how many prominent conservatives who pontificate on divorce are themselves in second marriages.) But what drives the essay, what makes it hum, is Didion's barely contained hatred and contempt for evangelical Christianity.

Didion's readers have of course come to expect a double shot of loathing in anything from her pen. For many years now she has written essays and novels fueled by disgust with the lies, the corruption, the unforgivable naivete on every hand. Now that the great Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard is dead, Didion is the undisputed master of sophisticated hate.

She loves to use quoted phrases as specimens, holding them up with tweezers, as it were, for the delectation of her readers, who can be presumed to share her scorn and disgust at the words she quotes from Bush, who explains that "the main reason I quit [drinking] was because I accepted Jesus Christ as personal savior in 1986." Amazing, isn't it, that there are people who really talk like that?

Her grasp of what Christians believe is evidently rather shaky. "To accept Jesus Christ as personal savior is pretty much the heart and soul of evangelical conversion (or of being 'born again,' which both Governor Bush and Vice President Gore claim to be)," she writes, ...

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