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Piling On

In addition to what Noam and Andrew Sullivan had to say about David Brooks' latest. After going on at some length to convince us that this John Stott is a better representative of religious conservatism than is Jerry Falwell, and that Stott is a calm, erudite, intellectual fellow, Brooks winds up conceding that on some issues Stott "will not compromise." Indeed, he has "a backbone of steel." Among other uncompromising views, Stott "does not accept homosexuality as a legitimate lifestyle."

But so there you have it. According to Brooks, not everyone on the religious right is a mad dog, nutty, hate-filled, gay basher. Some peopel are, like Stott, calm, cool, collected, intellectual, self-reflective, gay bashers. But what of it? Jon Chait used to point out that there's a weird tendency in the media to identify conservatism with being personally mean. New Gingrich seemed like a nasty dude, so he was very conservative. Bush on the 2000 campaign trail seemed nice, kind even. So, obviously, he was moderate. But he's not moderate and the policies he advocated never were. It's just the same with Stott -- hardline anti-gay views are hardline anti-gay views, even if they're packaged in a friendly erudite manner.

December 1, 2004 | Permalink

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» Homosexuality from Jeff the Baptist
Matthew Yglesias is posting about David Brooks piece on John Stott. The problem here is that like many a liberal before him, Yglesias equates "gay basher" to "regarding homosexuality as morally illegitimate." Allow me to explain why this is inapprop... [Read More]

Tracked on Dec 1, 2004 5:52:20 PM

» WOW! from Wunderkinder
Amazing stuff over at Yglesias. Through the sheer power of logic, Yglesias has conclusively shown that even though John Stott is nice, he is not necessarily politically moderate. Yglesias' proof? Fact: Bush is nice. Fact: Bush is not politically modera... [Read More]

Tracked on Dec 1, 2004 7:27:39 PM

» 9 Short Tem Steps from Fester's Place
these steps do not require hundreds of millions of dollars or policy manna from heaven to fall upon us. Instead, these steps require cultural and insitutional willingness to change which may be an even greater hurdle, but there are no logistical rea... [Read More]

Tracked on Dec 1, 2004 8:40:59 PM

» John Stott's Moderation from Parableman
Matthe Yglesias is foaming at the mouth over David Brooks's selection of John Stott as more representative of evangelicalism than people like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, whom most evangelicals consider to be of the quality most conservatives would... [Read More]

Tracked on Dec 2, 2004 8:52:05 AM

» David Brooks, Andrew Sullivan and John Stott from JOLLYBLOGGER - a weblog for jolly beggars
David Brooks, author of Bobos in Paradise and On Paradise Drive, recently wrote a column in the NY Times seeking to introduce John Stott to his readers and offering him as a better representative of evangelicalism than Jerry Falwell. [Read More]

Tracked on Dec 2, 2004 12:05:50 PM

Comments

If you randomly selected 1000 members of American evangelical congregations, I'd hazard that fewer than 50 of them have heard of this Stott fellow (a freaking Brit, for gosh sake).

Posted by: son volt | Dec 1, 2004 2:22:18 PM

New Gingrich seemed like a nasty dude, so he was very conservative. Bush on the 2000 campaign trail seemed nice, kind even. So, obviously, he was moderate.

And Arnold Schwarzenegger will obviously make a tough and relentless governor, incorruptible by the evil 'special interests'. He's, like, cool.

Posted by: abb1 | Dec 1, 2004 2:27:30 PM

Yeah, I don't know how Brooks squares this:
...he is not a political conservative on most issues.

With these:
He does not accept homosexuality as a legitimate lifestyle, and of course he believes in evangelizing among nonbelievers. He is pro-life and pro-death penalty

He's not conservative, other than being anti-gay, pro-life, and pro-death penalty. What's left? Taxes, maybe?

Posted by: Mithras | Dec 1, 2004 3:03:03 PM

"Personally Mean" Well, that's why I call
them "Selfish Republicans"™ The main
thing they wish to conserve is their money.
Anyone poor should go to the rectory door
for handouts; else, tough titty.

Posted by: "Dr" Hedley Lamarr | Dec 1, 2004 3:03:28 PM

There is a decent-sized group of genuinely nice people who think God has told them homosexuality is an abomination and (whether this is His idea or their extrapolation) that public policy should reflect that dictate. Love the sinner, hate the sin, and all that.
The awareness that there are such people (whom we secular, blue-state liberals don't run across) should inform us on tactics, rather than principles. Genuine meanies should be attacked as meanies. They won't vote our way no matter what, and screw them. We should address the nice but objectively pro-bigotry contingent differently. They are rarely as intense in their belief about the public policy implications of the existence among us of homosexuals as they are about their belief that homosexuals are sinners or perverts. So we should talk about that, not merely sneer at them as unenlightened bigots: this is a big country, the plain fact is there are millions of gays among us and millions of non-gays see nothing wrong with that; as a condequence of this basic fact, there ought to be a convenient, off-the-shelf legal status (stay away from naming issues -- call it marriage, civil union, or brocolli with garlic sauce, whatever gets the job done and pisses the fewest people off) to allow committed gay couples to deal with legal problems without having to pay a small fortune to lawyers. We won't get these folks to agree on all the details, but we can turn the temperature down. Then maybe they'll stay home, or the issue will be less salient if they do vote, and they'll be able to accept some disagreement with a candidate they might nevertheless support.

Posted by: C.J.Colucci | Dec 1, 2004 3:14:45 PM

"Among other uncompromising views, Stott "does not accept homosexuality as a legitimate lifestyle."

I've always thought that keeping one's nose out of other people's business was one of the high principles of conservatism.

Posted by: peter jung | Dec 1, 2004 3:16:27 PM

Mithras: "He's not conservative, other than being anti-gay, pro-life, and pro-death penalty. What's left?"

Peter Jung: "I've always thought that keeping one's nose out of other people's business was one of the high principles of conservatism."

Like Brooks said, he's not a conservative.

Posted by: Paul Callahan | Dec 1, 2004 3:48:55 PM

Obviously, Matthew, the point is that not everyone believes that "does not accept homosexuality as a legitimate lifestyle" = "gay-bashing". It's basically only the far-left, ultra-Blue, dogmatic-secularists who believe that. And Brooks's point is that, until you learn to understand that, you not understand Red America.

Posted by: Al | Dec 1, 2004 3:52:59 PM

I've always thought that keeping one's nose out of other people's business was one of the high principles of conservatism.


I've always thought that was one of the high principles of libertarianism, not conservatism.

Posted by: Al | Dec 1, 2004 3:53:54 PM

That silly liberal media, not knowing that to find the true voice of American evangelical Christianity, you need to go to an Anglican church in London.

Posted by: Katherine | Dec 1, 2004 3:56:02 PM

"not everyone believes that "does not accept homosexuality as a legitimate lifestyle" = "gay-bashing". It's basically only the far-left, ultra-Blue, dogmatic-secularists who believe that. And Brooks's point is that, until you learn to understand that, you not understand Red America."

Yes, you don't hate gays, you just hate the way their lifestyle is about to destroy our families and end civilization.

I wrote a poem about this once:

You gays are so silly,
your feelings so delicate.
We don't hate you; we love you!
(As long as you're celibate.)

It's incoherent. It's like saying you don't hate Jews--you just hate the way they killed Christ & still refuse to convert to Christianity.

Posted by: Katherine | Dec 1, 2004 4:03:49 PM

Stanley Baldwin, the late prime minister is a pretty good example of someone who followed a program of meanness while--or "by"--maintaning a gentle facade.

Posted by: buce | Dec 1, 2004 4:09:15 PM

And Brooks's point is that, until you learn to understand that, you not understand Red America.

As far as I could figure, Brooks's main point was to present his own wishful thinking about American evangelicalism as it should be and to disassociate himself from Falwell and others whom he personally despises. He's probably desperate that in the bitterness over the election, he won't be invited to liberal cocktail parties anymore to research Bobos Part Deux.

In Brooks's fantasy world, Falwell is a marginal "bozo" among evangelicals while Stott is the real McCoy. This is about as credible as saying Rush Limbaugh is a just blowhard disk jockey while David Brooks is the true spokesman for conservative America.

Posted by: Paul Callahan | Dec 1, 2004 4:21:59 PM

Stott actually was a pretty important figure among evangelicals at one point, but less so today because he's very old. He wrote a book called Basic Christianity that was extremely popular back in the day.

Anyway, Brooks is correct in saying that Stott is not a political conservative, not because Stott isn't a conservative, but because he isn't political. He doesn't really care very much about public policy and certainly not about electoral politics.

This is also true of most evangelicals. On one hand, there has undoubtedly been a groundswell of support among evangelicals towards the Republican Party lately. That said, my (purely anecdotal) guess is that even today a fairly large majority of evangelicals are basically apolitical - not that they don't vote Republican (clearly, they do), but politics is not a very important part of their outlook on life. It's probably the case that almost every evangelical in the world believes gay intercourse to be wrong on some level - it would be very difficult to reconcile the opposite view with a belief that the Bible is authoritative, which is one of the main theological characteristics of evangelicalism. However, that doesn't mean that they believe it to be a matter of pressing government concern, and many, in fact, do not.

In case you're curious, the most influential figures among evangelicals today are probably people nobody has ever heard of such as John Piper, Tim Keller, R.C. Sproul, John Ortberg. Dobson, admittedly, is pretty influential too. But Falwell and Robertson are politicians, not religious leaders, and a great many people, even among traditional evangelicals, are embarrassed by them.

Posted by: JP | Dec 1, 2004 4:45:28 PM

Look, Brooks isn't wrong about Russert being insane to book Falwell, a demagogue just about completely devoid of credibility anywhere, who - more to the point - contributes virtually nothing to an intelligent dialogue on the issues of the day. Not that Sharpton's not too far behind, either, but at least his presidential run seemed to enhance his credibility, not destroy it. And I think Brooks is right that for liberals to get a better sense of where evangelicals come down on issues (to the extent that it's useful to do), they ought to look at other, less well known folks rather than the obvious names. But yes, to portray Stott as somehow the sort of conservative who'e not really that conservative seems absurd, and typically Brooks (he got me rethinking my religion, hence he's a genius. Have you tried Who Moved my Cheese?). And I've noticed a bit of that, lately - conservatives who seem more attuned to the "Live and live" let notion that gay men and lesbians deserve reasonable treatment suddenly espousing covert or even explicit lines that say there's something wrong with being gay. Well there is, or there isn't. Jonah Goldberg and David Brooks, I think, need to be challenged on their recent circular phrasing that says I've got nothing against gays, but I get why people say there's something wrong with it.

Posted by: weboy | Dec 1, 2004 4:53:19 PM

Shorter Al: We conservatives get to practice moral relativism. You liberals will burn in hell for it.

Posted by: j swift | Dec 1, 2004 4:57:09 PM

Although I can only agree that network news programs like "Meet The Press" are tiresomely predictable in their selection of "guests", the idea that someone like the subject of Brooks' piece might represent so-called "people of faith"
is absurd. Stott may practice "thoughtful allegiance" to scripture, but I have to question
how much thought evangelical christians in this country apply when seemingly so many wish to embrace the Bible as literally true (and to the exclusion of any other point of view).

Posted by: jlm | Dec 1, 2004 5:04:58 PM

I've heard of self-loathing Jews, but can someone explain this?

Stott is so embracing it's always a bit of a shock - especially if you're a Jew like me - when you come across something on which he will not compromise....he does not believe truth is plural. He does not believe in relativizing good and evil or that all faiths are independently valid, or that truth is something humans are working toward. Instead, Truth has been revealed.

Oooh, he is just so impressive and manly when he tells us Jews we're going to hell. Spank me, er, I mean Save me, Pastor John!

Posted by: Kuz | Dec 1, 2004 5:45:14 PM

I guess it's somewhat theraputic to use him as a reliable post-election punching bag. But why does anyone pay the least attention to anything Brooks produces? He's an idiot.

Posted by: Jeff I | Dec 1, 2004 6:00:58 PM

Because Brooks writes for the Times Op-ed is why we pay attention to him. It like saying why do we listen to anything Bush says? He's an idiot.

Posted by: Rob | Dec 1, 2004 6:29:27 PM

Bishop John Shelby Spong takes John Stott apart in this great piece:

http://jmm.aaa.net.au/articles/4704.htm

Posted by: Mardy | Dec 1, 2004 6:31:29 PM

But why does anyone pay the least attention to anything Brooks produces?

I find I don't hate Brooks, because it seems that he's earnestly trying to persuade me of his conservative views instead of just pounding on the usual talking points. This doesn't make him a good guy, but he's just one of the few conservative pundits I can read without my blood pressure going up.

The Stott column was interesting to me mainly because it was so off the wall. He wants to say something good about evangelicals--OK, fine--but first he has to nominate an acceptable spokesman for them.

Brooks may claim to understand Red State America, but I wonder if Red State America understands Brooks. This is a guy who writes a whole book on "Bobos" buying overpriced obsolete cr*p at Restoration Hardware and how this is the future of American culture (or was that before 9/11 changed everything?). Did he sell a lot of copies in Kansas?

The guy might honestly believe that NASCAR dads are the vital force of American politics, but he sounds like he'd be more at home reading Talk of the Town in the New Yorker than watching a race on TV. His conflicted nature is so palpable, it's just hilarious to watch.

Posted by: Paul Callahan | Dec 1, 2004 6:40:01 PM

The guy might honestly believe that NASCAR dads are the vital force of American politics, but he sounds like he'd be more at home reading Talk of the Town in the New Yorker than watching a race on TV.


So what? It's as if you'd disqualify de Tocqueville from writing about America just because the guy was French! If Brooks has prescient observations about Red America, you shouldn't dismiss them merely because Brooks himself is Blue.

Posted by: Al | Dec 1, 2004 6:52:09 PM

What a spectacular deduction! Bush = nice. Bush's policies = not moderate. Therefore not everyone who is nice is moderate!!!!!!

YES!!!!!!!!!!!!

Amazing!!!!!!!!!!!

How do you do it Yglesias? You and your crazy logic skillz!

Posted by: dell | Dec 1, 2004 7:14:03 PM

So what? It's as if you'd disqualify de Tocqueville from writing about America just because the guy was French.

LOL. Let's see how quickly that knee jerks when another French commentator talks about America, Al. You stupid, witless cunt.

As for Brooks: the problem is that he is dull. And lame. He is a bad writer. He talks about how it's such a struggle to find ideas to turn into his well-compensated 700 bi-weekly words. That's not simply the mark of someone who needs to spend 12-hour days in a factory on minimum wage to get a sense of what 'struggle' entails; it's the mark of a crappy writer.

If Brooks has prescient observations about Red America

That's like saying 'If Al has a coherent thought'. It's a hypothesis that, as of yet, has not been absolutely refuted, but all evidence points towards the negative. The stupid fuck's research skills in 'Red America' are lacking, for starters.

Posted by: ahem | Dec 1, 2004 8:25:31 PM

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