An Evangelical Reporter Speaks Up
Don has already called for an end to the political namecalling. John McCandlish Phillips, a former religion writer for the New York Times, has confronted the particular and recentyl popular application of the term “jihad” in relation to religious people by the predominantly left-wing op-ed writers in the Times and Washington Post (which published this column).
I have been looking at myself, and millions of my brethren, fellow evangelicals along with traditional Catholics, in a ghastly arcade mirror lately — courtesy of this newspaper and the New York Times. Readers have been assured, among other dreadful things, that we are living in “a theocracy” and that this theocratic federal state has reached the dire level of — hold your breath — a “jihad.”
In more than 50 years of direct engagement in and observation of the major news media I have never encountered anything remotely like the fear and loathing lavished on us by opinion mongers in these world-class newspapers in the past 40 days.
Phillips recounted most of the major, left-wing columnists who have picked up on the “jihad” meme and then, after he reassured them that religious people aren’t going to hurt them, accused them of improperly revising history:
In the long journey from the matchless moment when I became “born again” and encountered the risen and living Christ, I have met hundreds of evangelicals and a good many practicing Catholics and have found them to be of reasonable temperament, often enough of impressive accomplishment, certainly not a menace to the republic, unless, of course, the very fact of faith seriously held is thought to make them just that. It is said, again and again and again, that the evangelical/Catholic right is out of accord with the history of our republic, dangerously so. What we are out of accord with is not that history but a revisionist version of it vigorously promulgated by those who want it to be seen as other than it was.
The main culprit in this revision are the secularists, whom I contend are just as fervent in their “religion” as any evangelical. Phillips explained why religious people are afraid of secularist goals.
Evangelicals are concerned about the frequently advanced and historically untenable secularists’ view of the intent of our non-establishment/free exercise of religion clause: that everything that has its origin in religion must be swept out of federal, and even civil, domains. That view, if militantly enforced, constitutes what seems dangerous to most evangelicals: the strict and entire separation of God from state. This construct, so desired by some, is radically out of sync with much in American history that shows a true regard for the non-establishment of religion while giving space in nearly all contexts to wide and free expressions of faith.
The fact is that our founders did not give us a nation frightened by the apparition of the Deity lurking about in our most central places. On Sept. 25, 1789, the text of what was later adopted as the First Amendment was passed by both houses of Congress, and subsequently sent to the states for ratification. On that same day , the gentlemen in the House who had acted to give us that invaluable text took another action: They passed a resolution asking President George Washington to declare a national day of thanksgiving to no less a perceived eminence than almighty God.