In cookies, Family Research Council's message crumbles

In cookies, Family Research Council's message crumbles
It's likely that there will be more religion news out of the Republican National Convention this week than there was out of the Democrats' meeting last month. Weblog doubts, for example, that Amy Sullivan will be able to parse out each biblical allusion or reference to faith that comes from the pulpit podium. But at the Democratic convention, religion was an important subplot because the question was new: Is the party becoming dogmatically secularist? For the GOP, questions about the role and power of religious conservatives are pretty old. Will there be any truly newsworthy stories about faith and politics coming out of the convention? We'll keep watch, but Weblog's hopes aren't too high.

Speaking of Sullivan, she has closed down her Political Aims weblog with a triumphant crow about her party's "welcoming people of faith." Now she'll be blogging over at Washington Monthly, where she's newly employed. She has several posts already on faith and politics, but her most recent accuses religious conservative groups of hypocrisy. "Shouldn't it matter that conservatives don't get exercised at all over pro-choice Republican Catholics in high-profile positions?" she asks. The real problem, she says, is that the press follows the lead of activists like the Catholic League's William Donohue: "How many reporters do you think are going to ask Rudy Giuliani or George Pataki or Arnold Schwarzenegger if they should refrain from taking Communion?"

Sullivan says groups like the Catholic League should be treated like any other partisan organization. They don't really care about making sure that Catholic politicians treat Communion in accordance with church doctrine. "What they do care about," she says, "is defeating Democrats."

On some days, Weblog might offer some counter evidence. Or Weblog might add that similar "non-partisan" religious groups exist on the left (check out Sojourners' "God is Not a Republican" ad in today's New York Times. Apparently God is not a Republican —or a Democrat, the ad notes—but he sure likes the Democratic Party platform and wants his people to say so during the GOP convention.)

But today, Weblog isn't going to argue with Sullivan over thinly veiled politicking by religious conservative organizations. A press release from Family Research Council arrived at exactly the wrong time for that. The self-proclaimed nonpartisan organization, which "champions … virtue" and "promotes the Judeo-Christian worldview," according to its mission statement, says it will "motivate the pro-family base" at the Republican National Convention by handing out fortune cookies. No, Weblog isn't going to complain about the FRC use of occult objects—we'll let others complain about the cookies. Weblog is more concerned about the cookies' messages, which the FRC says "the Bush campaign should use to motivate pro-family voters." Three of the four are mere sloganeering:

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Real Men Marry Women: Support a Constitutional Amendment to Protect Marriage
Save the Constitution! Impeach an Activist Judge
Cures for Diseases - Know the Score: Embryonic Stem Cell 0, Adult Stem Cell 45

Does the FRC really think the Bush campaign should use these slogans? This is a clear departure from the serious, reasoned approach to public policy matters the FRC once took. Since its leadership change, the Family Research Council seems much less interested in research than it used to, but this press release in particular suggests a shift from reason to rhetoric. Why explain the heterosexual nature of marriage when you can just say that gays aren't "real men"? Why make a case against human life as commodity to "motivate the pro-family base" when you can treat the debate as just a matter of scoring? Why advocate for families in poverty when you can rally for the impeachment of "activist judges"—something your own organization says is "extremely difficult" and hasn't even suggested before this month?

Whatever. These three suffer from bad tactics. It's the fourth that's really troubling:

#1 Reason to Ban Human Cloning: Hillary Clinton

Disagree with Senator Clinton's policies all you want, but there's no justification for this kind of ad hominem attack. Here's FRC's first "core principle": "God exists and is sovereign over all creation. He created human beings in His image." Attacking Clinton like this, as a person, is an attack on the image of God.

Instead of informing public policy debates and countering the left's argument that pro-life and pro-family causes are inherently misogynist, misanthropic, prejudiced, and unthinking, these cookies feed such stereotypes.

Speaking of the Clintons …

Bill Clinton preached a "scripture-laden speech" against President Bush yesterday at Manhattan's Riverside Church. "It's wrong to demonize and cartoonize one another, and to ignore evidence, and to make false charges and to bear false witness," Clinton said, referring to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads. "Sometimes I think our friends on the other side have become the people of the Nine Commandments."

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Other examples of bearing false witness, he said, are those who call the pro-choice position pro-abortion. ("I have yet to meet anyone who is for abortion," he said) and those who "demonize" same-sex relationships. "I'm not ashamed to say gay people shouldn't be discriminated against, and I don't think Jesus had much to say on the subject," he said.

"I believe President Bush is a good Christian," he added. "I believe that his faith in Jesus saved him. I believe it gave him new purpose and direction to his life. But that doesn't mean that he doesn't see through a glass darkly. It doesn't mean that you can have a bunch of people acting on your behalf, and pretending like you don't know them, to say that the seven people who were on John Kerry's swift boat don't know what they're talking about when they say he deserves the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts."

Kevin Madden, spokesman for the Bush campaign, told the New York Daily News, "It's astonishing that anyone would use a church pulpit to launch a baseless attack containing nothing but false accusations."

Oh, come on. Bill Clinton accuses Republicans of only following nine of the Ten Commandments and of bearing false witness, and the best response you can come up with is that he's misusing a pulpit?

The apocalyptic former priest who messed up the Marathon

The apocalyptic former priest who messed up the Marathon
Back in 1987, Margaret Thatcher thanked Irish priest Neal Horan for his "sterling efforts in the cause of promoting world peace." Yesterday, Horan disrupted one of the symbolic events in the world-peace-themed Olympics, the marathon, by attacking frontrunner Vanderlei de Lima. Horan has been banned from performing priestly duties for the past decade, and interrupted the British Grand Prix in July 2003. He has also tried to interrupt Wimbledon, cricket, and rugby matches, says the Associated Press.

Don't lump Horan, who was apparently motivated by apocalyptic beliefs, into any kind of mainstream Christian belief. He may have been a Catholic priest, but he proudly holds many heretical Christadelphian beliefs. But even Christadelphians would have a hard time swallowing Horan's particular eschatology.

Brazil doesn't care much about Horan's theology. They just want their gold medal. The Brazilian Olympic Committee says it will appeal the decision of the International Association of Athletics Federations not to award two golds for the race. De Lima is also miffed that Horan only got a one-year suspended sentence and a $3,600 fine for his action. "This means he will probably do this again and get killed, as in Formula One, or kill someone," he told the Associated Press.

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Launched in 1999, Christianity Today’s Weblog was not just one of the first religion-oriented weblogs, but one of the first published by a media organization. (Hence its rather bland title.) Mostly compiled by then-online editor Ted Olsen, Weblog rounded up religion news and opinion pieces from publications around the world. As Christianity Today’s website grew, it launched other blogs. Olsen took on management responsibilities, and the Weblog feature as such was mothballed. But CT’s efforts to round up important news and opinion from around the web continues, especially on our Gleanings feature.
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Ted Olsen is Christianity Today's executive editor. He wrote the magazine's Weblog—a collection of news and opinion articles from mainstream news sources around the world—from 1999 to 2006. In 2004, the magazine launched Weblog in Print, which looks for unexpected connections and trends in articles appearing in the mainstream press. The column was later renamed "Tidings" and ran until 2007.
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