jQuery Slider

You are here

Robert Reich's Rhetorical Rubbish


News Analysis

By David W. Virtue

Bill Clinton's former Labor Secretary Robert Reich predicts there will be a religious war in America.

Writing for the liberal magazine The American Prospect, former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich calls for a war against conservative (read Evangelical) religious believers. "The great conflict of the 21st century will not be between the West and terrorism. Terrorism is a tactic, not a belief," he writes.

"The true battle will be between modern civilization and anti-modernists; between those who believe in the primacy of the individual and those who believe that human beings owe their allegiance and identity to a higher authority; between those who give priority to life in this world and those who believe that human life is mere preparation for an existence beyond life; between those who believe in science, reason, and logic and those who believe that truth is revealed through Scripture and religious dogma. Terrorism will disrupt and destroy lives. But terrorism itself is not the greatest danger we face."

Reich has been calling for—or at least predicting—this war for a long time. In the past, his use of war language has seemed rhetorical and metaphoric, but now it seems we should take him literally if not seriously.

Mr. Reich has it all wrong.

There is indeed a serious culture war going on in America, a culture war that was started by those dissenting from absolute moral norms that have been the staple of Western Civilization for more than 2,000 years. Our understanding of the family, marriage, law, what is right and wrong have been shaped by the West's reading of the Bible, its understanding of the ancient Mosaic texts, reflected further in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount.

It is the abandonment and violation of these laws that has brought about the current culture wars in the West, the infiltration of which has permeated not only society but the historic mainline Christian churches as well.

Mr. Reich says that the outcome of the 2004 presidential election will depend partly on what happens between now and Election Day in Iraq and to the U.S. economy. "It will also turn on the religious wars—fueled by evangelical Protestants, the ground troops of the Republican Party," he wrote in December.

It is apparent Mr. Reich doesn't know very much about Evangelicals in America. Evangelicals are not an homogenous group; they are as diverse as any group could be. Jerry Falwell (a Republican) calls himself an Evangelical and so does Jimmy Carter (a Democrat). In fact Carter gave cache to the term "born again" when he became president. Billy Graham is an Evangelical and so is Dr. C. FitzSimons Allison a retired Episcopal Bishop.

Furthermore there is a whole history of left wing Evangelicalism in America found in such persons as Jim Wallis of Sojourners magazine, Dr. Tony Campolo, a former professor at Eastern University and chaplain to Clinton, and Dr. Ron Sider who heads Evangelicals for Social Action. They are all left of center Evangelicals and you can be assured they will vote for the Democratic Party in November. There is of course, a right wing Evangelicalism in America that will, of course, vote for George W. Bush. That is their right.

I also know a dozen religion writers, columnists and editors who would describe themselves as evangelicals but they won't necessarily be voting for George W. Bush in November.

For Mr. Reich to cast "Evangelical Protestants" as the "ground troops of the Republican Party" is just plain nonsense. Millions of Southern Baptists are Democrats. They are not uniformly Republican.

Writes Reich: "Democrats, he says, can hold their own in these wars—if they respond vigorously to the coming assault. Democrats should call all this for what it is—a clear and present danger to religious liberty in America. For more than three hundred years, the liberal tradition has sought to free people from the tyranny of religious doctrines that would otherwise be imposed on them. Today's evangelical right detests that tradition and seeks nothing short of a state-sponsored religion. But maintaining the separation of church and state is a necessary precondition of liberty. … The religious wars aren't pretty. Religious wars never are. But Democrats should mount a firm and clear counter-assault. In the months leading up to Election Day, when Republicans are screaming about God and accusing the Democrats of siding with sexual deviants and baby killers, Democrats should remind Americans that however important religion is to our spiritual lives, there is no room for liberty in a theocracy."

This statement is not only inflammatory it is wrong. Many Evangelicals now believe that THEIR liberties are under assault by the tyranny of liberals and the abandonment of once held cherished beliefs and the Federal Marriage Amendment Act is a case in point. The tyranny of activist homosexualists in this country has reduced everyone to such fear that even to say the behavior is wrong can get you jail time. Just ask a Canadian and a Swedish pastor who are both serving time in jail for saying homosexual behavior can kill you. Will that time come in the US? Religious liberties are under assault in the State of PA where laws are in place to slap anyone in jail who opposes sodomy. The clergy are fighting back.

Mr. Reich says evangelicals want a "state sponsored religion" or a theocracy. That's nonsense. No Evangelical or Evangelical publication that I know of, including Christianity Today, WORLD, Charisma, even Focus on the Family has ever called for a theocracy. All Evangelicals want is the right to call SIN by its name and call people to repentance, and increasingly that option is being taken away from them by the left who are promoting sodomy in schools through GLSEN and demanding laws that proscribe any talk of sodomy as "homophobic" and more.

Furthermore to call Evangelicals "anti-modernists" is arrant nonsense. Evangelicals have been in the forefront of science, business, the environment, foundations, and a care for the poor that makes liberal efforts pale by comparison.

Liberal church organizations have got nothing to compare with movements like the Salvation Army, World Vision Int., Food for the Poor and a whole array of institutions, schools and universities begun by evangelicals including Harvard, Yale, Princeton and more.

Reich talks rubbish about Evangelicals. In the Episcopal Church, for example,
Evangelicals have, for more than 40 years backed away from advances made by liberals in theological and moral innovation drawing more lines in the sands than rings around Uranus. Today they stand with their backs to the wall as revisionist bishops beat orthodox rectors into the ground, inhibiting, deposing and taking their parishes from them and more in the name of their "liberal" revisionist god.

The truth is the emerging tyranny is coming from the left not the right. Is opposing gay marriage, abortion and the free exercise of religion in public schools and elsewhere (three issues that Reich specifically mentions) so terribly un-American? Will such opposition promote a revolution?

"Democrats should be clear that the issues of abortion and stem-cell research are about religious liberty," Reich says. If either of these is limited in any way, he suggests, America becomes a theocracy, regardless of whether it officially sponsors a specific religion. And that, the logic necessarily follows, demands a revolution.

And will the Roman Catholic Church which opposes abortion and has told John Kerry in some dioceses that he cannot receive Communion, be part of the coming religious war in America? Reich doesn't say so.

Can Reich really mean what he says, asks Ramesh Ponnuru in National Review Online.
"His most recent column is a denunciation — as a graver threat than terrorists — of people who believe that the world to come is more important than this world, or that all human beings owe their allegiance to God. Many millions of Christians, Jews, Muslims, and other religious believers will reject Reich's witless rhetorical oppositions. One can believe in the political "primacy of the individual," the obligation of all people to answer to God, and the wrongness of any governmental attempt to make them answer to Him, all at the same time. But if our choice is between the primacy of individuals and the primacy of God — if, that is, we are to choose between individual human beings and God — then the vast majority of traditional religious believers would have to choose God. I certainly would. That would be the case for plenty of believers who are not sure what they think about abortion law, or want a higher minimum wage. All of us, for Reich, are the enemy."

The deeper truth is that if a war is coming it will be between Islam and a morally bankrupt West that Islam sees as weak and therefore vulnerable.

If that is true then Mr. Reich may well be grateful for "Evangelical Protestants" when that time comes, because it will be they who will be the nation's storm-troopers as the West fights for its very soul.


Get a bi-weekly summary of Anglican news from around the world.
comments powered by Disqus
Trinity School for Ministry
Go To Top