Howard Dean, theologian
Probably reacting to this article in the New Republic, Howard Dean last week played the God card. And God is not mocked.
- First of all, he says he leaves the Episcopal Church and becomes a Congregationalist over … I am not kidding … a zoning fight concerning a bike path.
- Then, the Boston Globe describes him as “a committed believer in Jesus Christ” — a man who married a non-Christian and who let his children choose their religion.
- Then, he describes Job as his favorite book of the New Testament (really) and also mangles a (perfectly legitimate in itself) issue of Job scholarship in trying to prove how smart he is.
- Then, when asked again about the New Testament, he says “anything from the Gospels” (like, he couldn’t cite a single verse).
- Then, he says God couldn’t possibly condemn homosexuality because homosexual persons exist. St. Blog’s parishioner David Morrison deserves time off in Purgatory for taking this on with a straight face.
- Then, in that selfsame planned interview, he cites God as one of the reasons he signed the Vermont gay-marriage-in-all-but-name bill. And not two days later, hold onto your hat, he attacks George Bush in a spontaneous forum for deciding as he did on stem-cell research for religious reasons.
Dean should just can this God-talk in my opinion. It’s not convincing anybody who’d give two hoots about his religious beliefs, because it’s so obviously a recent addition to his portfolio and the mask slips so easily.
I don’t think someone as obviously secular as Dean should be U.S. president (though my reasons for saying that ), but whatever my objections might be on that as such, last week was just aesthetically pathetic. I’d rather have Dean be Dean and then force a clear choice in November (we’ve had triangulation in the Oval Office for 12 of the last 16 years; clear choices are more aesthetically pleasing and have more civic virtue).
It’s clear that Dean understands religion only as a hobby, like restoring old cars on the weekend. As an interesting character quirk, he gets it. As the center of one’s being, as the defining feature of the universe, as something that might “inform my public policy” (in Dean’s own incredible phrase) or as something really true … you might as well be speaking Latin. But he’s trying so hard and the more he tries, the more pitiful and painful it becomes. It’s like watching the Man in the Grey Flannel Suit try to drag race with the Teddy Boys. Or the professor on the cabaret stage at the end of THE BLUE ANGEL. Or Al Gore trying do Al Sharpton in his 2000 campaign appearances in black churches.
Anybody who’s spent any time in academia, the media, or among blue-state professionals can type Dean in an instant — the secular, progressive, bourgeois man of science (M. Homais in MADAME BOVARY is an early example of the type). But because he has political ambitions in the United States, Dean cannot say what he actually thinks.
In fact, just for aesthetic reasons and basic honesty, he should just say something like:
“y’know, I’m just not a religious man. Belief in the Xtian god makes no more sense to me than belief in the Greek gods. I never think, speak or act with God on my mind. If you think it works for you, fine. And if you think your God is telling you to do something I think is good, I won’t reject your support (unless you have a Confederate flag on your pickup). But I think society is healthier the more secular it becomes, because faith is contrary to reason, and claims of absolute truth are divisive. I think ‘God’ is basically like ‘Santa Claus,’ both as regards individuals and societies. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. But, when I became a man, I put away the things of a child.”
I’m not saying this is a theologically-coherent or -correct position mind you. Or that it would matter at the end of DOGVILLE. Or that he would necessarily gain politically (I think it’d be a wash because it would merely confirm what anyone who cares to think about it already knows). Or that he wouldn’t be blazing the trail for, 20 years down the road, a more aggressively atheistic Ayn Rand or Madalyn Murray O’Hair type, as opposed to the basically easygoing secular agnostic I’ve sketched above. But I could retain a minimal amount of respect for the guy. As it is, I’m salivating at pondering whether the landslide will be 40 states or 45.
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