Message Discipline

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"Message Discipline"

I’m behind the curve on Amy Sullivan on David Kuo, but I thought this was interesting:

“I think the good news here is that people working in the White House think that Pat Robertson is nuts,” he said. “They should. Pat Robertson is nuts.” It seemed a little off-message–after all, this was a politically embarrassing book for the Bushies, and here O’Donnell was praising them. True, Robertson does regularly spout off truly nutty and dangerous statements (his call for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez; his prayer for the death of liberal Supreme Court justices; his belief that UPC symbols are the Mark of the Beast as foretold in Revelation). But what rankled O’Donnell the most was Robertson’s “insane” belief that Jews are going to burn in hell. ”

While most of them would put it more delicately than Robertson, it is an article of faith for millions and millions of evangelicals that the only way into heaven is through belief in Jesus Christ. (The good reverend has also said he believes Methodists will burn in hell, but that’s not really the point.) By condemning and mocking that doctrine, O’Donnell managed an impressive feat. He took Robertson, a figure widely disliked and discredited throughout the evangelical community, and found a way to criticize him that would also insult and alienate evangelicals. Congratulations, Lawrence O’Donnell–you’re the new poster-boy for secular liberal intolerance.

Now Amy’s right. It would be useful, for the purposes of electoral politics, for liberals in the media to avoid expressing the view that the belief — adhered to by millions of Americans — that failure to accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior will result in eternal damnation is daft. On the other hand, the evangelical view of this matter is, in fact, completely absurd. And not just absurd in a virgin birth, water-into-wine, I-believe-an-angel-watches-over-me kind of way. On this view, a person who led an entirely exemplary life in terms of his impact on the world (would an example help? Gandhi, maybe?) but who didn’t accept Jesus as his personal savior would be subjected to a life of eternal torment after his death and we’re supposed to understand that as a right and just outcome. That, I think, is seriously messed up.

But I shouldn’t say so!

UPDATE: Since this post got Atrios’d, let me say that I don’t especially think Amy merits a Two Minute Hate here and I agree with her point in the article that what Sam Rosenfeld called “theocracy hype” (for example) is both analytically wrong and tactically misguided. But I think there’s a real dilemma here — some things that are impolitic to say are also true.

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