Is the culture war heating up?
"Crusading for a Christian nation," says a front-page headline on today's Chicago Tribune. "Christian conservatives, energized by the spiritual revival brought on by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, [are campaigning] to post the 10 Commandments in public buildings throughout the country," writes Dahleen Glanton. "The biblical laws, which some Christians insist should be established as American doctrine, have become a weapon in a long-standing battle to erase the line separating church and state."

Say what? A long-standing battle to erase the line separating church and state? Establish the 10 Commandments as American doctrine? Says who? Not the main supporters of the Ten Commandments movement, which argue for acknowledging the Decalogue as a foundation for understanding other American documents, including the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. As Stephen Carter wrote in a recent Christianity Today column, "One thing for which America has traditionally stood—although the dominant culture seeks to deny this simple truth—is that moral obligation flows from a source greater than the self. If we ban from our public places all acknowledgments of this part of America's history, we reinforce the already overwhelming cultural message that our moral obligations (other than tolerance, of course) are only those we choose for ourselves."

Glanton ignores this crucial aspect of the Commandments battles, but it's not out of space concerns. She has plenty of space to slam Christians in other ways. For example, she notes the recent Barna study showing church attendance has returned to normal levels. And somehow she weaves in conservative Christian attitudes toward Islam. "For many devout Christians, the 10 Commandments movement is not just about saving souls or the 1st Amendment. It is about reasserting Christianity as America's dominant religion, a message being preached by some of the nation's most prominent evangelists." Then she goes on to describe Franklin Graham's comments about Islam and James Merritt's call for Southern Baptists to pray for Muslims. Of course there's a slam at Robertson's post-9/11 comments, too. And then the article concludes by repeating Barry Lynn's canard, "There is no single recognized 10 Commandments, even among Christians."

Simply put, it's a poorly reported, unfair, and ultimately untrue story. Didn't the Tribune's religion writer, Julia Lieblich, even get a look before this went to press?

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The world Pat left behind
Now that Pat Robertson has announced his resignation from the Christian Coalition and political life, the mainstream op-ed pages have trotted out their retrospectives. "Pat Robertson has been the most influential figure in American politics in the past decade," writes Michael Lind in The New York Times (aw, poor Bill Clinton). But Lind doesn't see it as a good thing. "Thanks to Pat Robertson, the religious right … captured—and killed—the conservative intellectual movement. By the mid-1990's, as the Christian Coalition consolidated its control over the Republican Party, any intellectual to the right of center who dared to criticize the television preacher was purged." And by intellectual conservatives, he means of course fiscal conservatives—not social conservatives. "The obsessions of Christian fundamentalists, like abortion, homosexuality, pornography and evolution, still define today's Robertsonized Right. And conservative intellectual journals like Commentary, National Review, and The Weekly Standard now join Kansas and Tennessee fundamentalists in attacking Darwinian biology." In other words, Robertson made Neanderthals of the conservative movement.

E.J. Dionne is kinder in The Washington Post. Maybe not so much to Pat himself, but certainly to conservative Christians. "Pat Robertson's decision to step down as president of the Christian Coalition and leave politics is good news for Christians, especially conservative Christians," he writes. "Having Robertson as a chief public spokesman for religious conservatism ultimately undercut its cause, partly because Robertson seemed eager to identify God's will with the electoral success of one political party, and partly because of Robertson's own peculiar views." These views, he says represent "neither conservatism nor Christianity. [They are] garden-variety conspiracy theory associated with groups such as the old John Birch Society—and I'm not sure I'm being entirely fair to the Birchers."

Shockingly, the columnist who doesn't have anything to say on Robertson's resignation is the Post's Colbert I. King, who has made Robertson his personal punching bag of late. Instead, he writes about Kensington, Maryland's banning of Santa Claus in a Christmas display.

Faith-based initiative is back on track—or is it?
Religion News Service and the Associated Press report that parts of Bush's faith-based initiative may be passed this month. Only it doesn't include the part about faith-based organizations being able to compete for government funds. Which means it's basically just a tax break. Next up: new federal airline regulations that cut out anything about airports or airplanes.

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