Hanna Rosin of The Washington Post wandered onto David Kirkpatrick's turf during the weekend, attempting to explain those strange new creatures in town who are called evangelicals. Rosin interviews several people, but the anecdotes of one political consultant, Lyric Hassler, provide the central image of the piece. Embarrassing memories from Hassler's teenage years -- "chastising her church youth group for wasting time on frivolous pizza parties, ignoring any TV that wasn't 'The 700 Club' -- become a symbol for what Rosin describes as evangelical political involvement in previous decades.
Hassler uses the word "Uchhhhhh" (or "Uccch" -- your spelling, like Rosin's, may vary) in recalling her teenager zeal, and Rosin projects it onto an entire adult subculture:
It's the sound of a movement shoving aside its past like so many pairs of braces. The conservative Christian political movement that burst on Washington in the '80s, the activists with their aborted-fetus placards and their heady plans to colonize school boards and their here-and-now visions of the Apocalypse, their early years are now a source of embarrassment to themselves.
Amen to them. No more thundering sermons on Wiccans and floods and child molesters, caught on tape and leaked by a political opponent. No more pronouncements about "signs" showing up in California. No more horrors from the Book of Revelation.
What, no reference to the Vanishing Hitchhiker or screams from Hell at a Siberian drilling site? Evangelicals who served in Congress during those years, such as Mark Hatfield and the late Rep. Paul B. Henry, don't appear in Rosin's story, perhaps because they weren't waving "aborted-fetus placards."
It's not that evangelicals are any less unusual in what they believe, Rosin suggests, but that they've learned good PR skills: "They may believe everything they believed before, but they've learned to speak in ways that are more measured and cautious and designed not to attract attention."
The tone continues as she describes newcomer John Thune:
Sen. John Thune is the movement's new David, having overthrown former Senate minority leader Tom Daschle. When talking about abortion, the South Dakota Republican prefers abstractions: "I like to connect my principled view with my policy objectives," he says. "Good principles can lead to good policy."
"Principles." "Policy." This could be Hillary Clinton talking about health care, Ralph Nader discussing emission standards. He could be anyone in Washington, talking about anything.
To secular humanists or even your average Democrat, Thune Land is a scary, scary frontier. "He is this new kind of Republican creature who puts an innocuous face on the religious right," says a Daschle aide who worked on the campaign. "Behind this cheerful frat-boy basketball-star persona is just the same old beast of the far right."
What qualifies Thune for this description? That never becomes clear, unless holding conservative positions on abortion or gay rights now qualifies as far right: "But Thune has nothing to hide. Ask him about abortion or gay rights, and he will answer straightforwardly, nicely, sensibly. He'd rather be elected deputy majority whip (which he just was) than lead a fringe movement."
Ah, but Rosin sees through the faÃ§ade of civility. Evangelicals still believe that, whatever the question, Jesus is the answer:
Rick Warren heads the list, and he is the perfect embodiment of the new ethos. Warren, who is a pastor in California, wrote "The Purpose Driven Life," the best-selling hardcover book in U.S. publishing history. There is only one way to find purpose: "placing our faith in Christ," by being "born-again." Period.
Is that not the most horrifying punctuating mark you've read in months?
On another cultural front, the Post's David Montgomery makes a lighthearted visit to Church of the Pilgrims Presbyterian, a gay-friendly congregation in the District, for a covert screening of the gay-friendly episode of Postcards from Buster.
Montgomery writes of the episode -- TiVo'ed and burned onto a DVD by a church member's sister -- as if it's video samizdat for the preschool set.
He quotes this dialogue from the show:
Buster: So Gillian's your mom, too? Emma [age 3]: She's my stepmom. Buster: Boy, that's a lot of moms! Emma: Yup. [Showing framed family photo.] This is mom and Gillian right here. Buster: That's a nice picture. Emma: This is one of my favorite pictures. Buster: How come? Emma: Because it has my mom and Gillian, people I love a lot, and they read a lot to me.
Montgomery paraphrases Gillian Pieper, one of Emma's two moms, as saying the producers "had been looking for two-mom families and settled on hers after another option fell through."
It's probably only a matter of time before pirated versions of the episode become available on eBay. If GetReligion readers know where to screen the episode via the Internet, give us a holler.