Canonizing Father Jack

DanforthPulpitWashington Post reporter Peter Slevin found a Republican he likes. He profiles former Senator John Danforth and his campaign to reduce the influence of the religious right. It's on the Style pages, the section of the paper in which a story will not run unless it's snide. And that explains the beginning of the piece:

Jack Danforth wishes the Republican right would step down from its pulpit. Instead, he sees a constant flow of religion into national politics. And not just any religion, either, but the us-versus-them, my-God-is-bigger-than-your-God, velvet-fist variety of Christian evangelism.

As a mainline Episcopal priest, retired U.S. senator and diplomat, Danforth worships a humbler God and considers the right's certainty a sin. Legislating against gay marriage, for instance? "It's just cussedness." As he sees it, many Republican leaders have lost their bearings and, if they don't change, will lose their grip on power. Not to mention make the United States a meaner place.

In any case, if you want to read about how Danforth supports embryonic stem-cell research, thought the Terri Schiavo case was about appeasing the Christian Right and thinks homosexual marriage is fine, you should check out the article. If you want to know more about the specific religious views that motivate Danforth's political agenda, look elsewhere. Speaking of gay marriage, this paragraph made me laugh:

In Missouri, where Danforth won five statewide elections, a constitutional amendment outlawing gay marriage passed overwhelmingly last year. Yet he believes most people would say no if asked, "Do you believe we should just be nasty and humiliate people and degrade them because of sexual orientation?"

Well, yes, I imagine most people who oppose gay marriage would say no if asked that question. The article does repeatedly concede that Danforth's time in office -- when conservatives did not exert such influence within the Republican Party -- was also the time when Republicans didn't have nearly as much political clout. Unfortunately the article fails to make a convincing argument as to why Republicans should listen to Danforth's views on religious influence.

The idea that the religiously motivated political views of one group should be replaced with the religiously motivated political views of another group could have been explored more substantively.

Either way, reporters should probably be more careful than Slevin was at letting such strong personal feelings show through. Even on the Style pages.

Photo credit: Donovan Marks, Washington National Cathedral.

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