Mean literalists suck

annaqPoor besieged Anna Quindlen. She received an indignant letter from a reader, you see, and his tone reminded her of the chill wind that is religious intolerance. "When did it first become gospel that only conservatives knew God?" Quindlen asks. As evidence of this widespread bigotry, Quindlen refers to the notorious Christian apologist Bill O'Reilly -- which could leave her more literal-minded readers thinking that God must sometimes refer to himself as The Factor. In the two recent shows on which he used the word secularists, O'Reilly defined it specifically: people who "do not want Jesus being injected into any policy debate" or who "want few judgments made about personal behavior." (Granted, using relativists would have acknowledged that many God-fearing progressives apparently want few judgments made about personal behavior.)

Referring to polls from the 2000 election but citing no specific sources, Quindlen works her way up to this polemical haymaker:

This was also complicated by the fact that many of us not only lack a simplistic way to talk about the subject but also resent even being asked to do it, to slap the contents of our soul down to establish the bona fides of our political positions. Those positions are the product of the ability humans have been given to reason, to interpret and to understand, not some literal textual interpretation that makes dialogue or disagreement unnecessary or subversive. It is astonishing to me to hear preachers of various stripes take to the television pulpit and take positions based on their direct line to the Lord with none of the empathy, humility or compassion Christ modeled in the New Testament.

Examples, please? Who are the champions of this spiritual know-nothingism? Who have they silenced? Who has threatened to blacklist Anna Quindlen? (We know who has threatened to blacklist Mel Gibson.) Who is denying the existence of -- or trying to shut down -- such Religious Left stalwarts as Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Clergy Leadership Network, Maryknoll, The Other Side, Quixote Center, Sojourners, Soulforce or the Washington policy offices of mainline churches?

Back to O'Reilly for a moment, though: he also criticized Andy Rooney, the resident curmudgeon at 60 Minutes, for presuming to know that greed was Gibson's primary reason for depicting the crucifixion of Jesus. Quindlen reinforced that empathetic, humble and compassionate understanding of Gibson by equating him (and any openly pious politician) with Judas:

Any time I hear a guy going on and on about how his road to the statehouse or the White House was paved with prayer (not to mention a good bit of soft money), I get the uncomfortable feeling he's doing what Mel Gibson has done with his movie: trading on God for personal gain. The modern version of 30 pieces of silver.

At least she did not cite the proof text of "Judge not, that ye be not judged." That would be an act of literalism.

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