"I am proud to call myself an ally of Pope John Paul, who stood up to this administration in Cairo" - Ralph Reed Jr.
"This is the day we have been longing for - Seeing the Christian Coalition rise to where God intends it to be as one of the most powerful political forces there has ever been in the history of America" - Pat Robertson
From ......... National Catholic Reporter
[NCR is an distinctly left-wing RC publication ..... JP ]
September 30, 1994
RIGHT ADVISED TO COOL RHETORIC
NECESSARY TO APPEAR TOLERANT IN CAMPAIGN,
COALITION MEETING TOLD
By ARTHUR JONES NCR Staff
WASHINGTON - The Christian Coalition is - temporarily - a house divided. This is a Congressional election year, so the coalition leadership wants the candidates it supports to win, and it wanted the nearly 3,000 rank-and-file members at the coalition's annual gathering and pre-election rally here Sept.16 and 17 to cool the rhetoric.
In political consultant Paul Weyrich's words to the religious right's equivalent of precinct workers and ward heelers-
"Approach the candidate with your business people, not by taking the most rabid person you can find who comes in wearing 16 buttons, all kinds of bumper stickers plastered across the front and foaming at the mouth."
"Appear tolerant" was the real and implied message of several speakers.
This is a year in which the antiabortion movement was set back when activists murdered a doctor and a volunteer guard at a clinic. And opposition to abortion remains the glue for the grassroots religious right movement. It also is the issue that provides the movement's battering ram on the Republican Party's door. The issue is the one around which all elements of the religious right gather, whether through clinic protests or work for a constitutional amendment or regulation of federal and state laws.
The rank-and-file religious right members do not want to yield on principles for political gain. Their most thunderous applause and cheers here went to those, including coalition Executive Director Ralph Reed, whose one-liners best stirred the passions of diehard religious conservatism and extremism. Reed was introduced thus:-
"Ralph will do a booksigning immediately after this ...... God always calls a particular man at a particular time to do his particular work. Fortunately for America, God has chosen Dr. Ralph Reed and commissioned him for a major leadership role in the remaking of America."
Reed, a sort of religious right "Doc Hollywood" who leans heavily on his image of boyish appeal in public displays, is by all accounts a tough behind-the-scenes political operative.
He also knows which buttons to push for audience feel-good response:
- Family values -
"This administration is not friendly to either family or values."
"I am proud to call myself an ally of Pope John Paul, who stood up to this administration in Cairo."
"Then we come to [Surgeon General] Jocelyn Elders."
"Mr. President, if you meant what you said in New Orleans last week about defending family, then we call on you to fire Jocelyn Elders immediately."
Cheers. Whistles. Applause.
"I want to say this to critics [of the religious right] - that hardworking, taxpaying, churchgoing citizens like you are not America's problem. They are America's solution."
Sustained cheers and applause.
Speakers came to the platform accompanied by recorded music [like 'Stars and Stripes Forever']. And as the music faded on one occasion, televangelist and media mogul Pat Robertson was in full view, calling out, "This, ladies and gentlemen, is the day we have been longing for - Seeing the Christian Coalition rise to where God intends it to be as one of the most powerful political forces there has ever been in the history of America."
A g e n d a
[Roman] Catholics Michael Novak and Fr. Richard John Neuhaus were brought in, in the words of one critical observer, "to give an academic sheen" to the politics of stridency. Indeed, Novak and Neuhaus, in this setting, came off as well-received moderates and as kindly highbrows for lowbrows.
They were welcomed, too, because they represented a [Roman] Catholic and evangelical alliance-for-progress, an alliance not much bigger than the immediate circle of those who last March signed the document Evangelicals and Catholics Together - The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium.
Neuhaus and Novak, two of the main figures in the drafting of the document, continued the convention subtheme - Lower your voices and appear moderate. Neuhaus opened with his view that historians looking at the post-Reformation period will find that "the most singly significant rapprochement" has been that "between evangelicals and Catholics in this country ..... rediscovering one another as brothers and sisters in Christ ..... cobelligerents in a common cause for the common good."
Then Neuhaus set members of the audience - in this setting more given to cheering than deep thought - pondering in their seats as he compared the coalition's Road to Victory theme with the Christians' road, The Way of the Cross.
"Our Christian hope does not depend on our political success," said Neuhaus, whose overall message was clear - "There is a danger [when] we confuse our specific public-policy judgments with the judgment of God" - a contrast to Robertson's earlier statement.
"It is important that we recognize that Christians can disagree within the bounds of civility about many public-policy questions. And at the same time, we must say firmly and lovingly and as winsomely and persuasively as we can that on some questions a common goal is made imperative by being Christian."
Neuhaus and Novak drew on the Christian enemies of the recent past - Nazism, Marxism and Maoism, Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin - to provide a comparison with today's secularist forces who are - another popular convention metaphor - today's "barbarians at the gate."
The "barbarians" were identified variously as Hollywood, extreme liberals and leftists; and People for the American Way, a civil liberties advocacy organization, was identified as a spear-carrier. People for the American Way charts religious right activities as part of its effort.
"Religion and politics are not the same," Novak instructed, "and when gathered in a political coalition we're not doing exactly what we're doing in church. There is what St. Augustine called the 'City of God' and the 'City of Man.' We have to observe those differences. Religion is about the transcendent and the eternal. Alas, with politics, we just deal with the contingent and the temporal and the compromise and with sin. The sin in us, too."
Having finished with religious basics, Novak next produced his political organizing primer:
"A different set of attitudes and techniques must be used Don't underestimate the intellectual task," he said, smiling benevolently.
'Religion in America historically has been good at rousing the feeling, the experience, of being converted. It has not been so good at articulating in a language that people who are not converted can understand. We must learn to speak in a language persuasive to .... those who are not in our tradition.
It's hard for us because it's not possible to use the texts from the Bible that we love so much and that mean so much to us. Sometimes we need to find a correlative, a way that fixes the point for them so they can see it."
After getting a brief lesson about Thomas Aquinas, the participants were urged to conduct their civil conversations with respect and reverence. Novak then treated them to more familiar "barbarians at the gate" rhetoric and finished to applause and cheers as he urged his listeners,
"Let's restore civility and let's win."
Less demanding intellectually, Dan Quayle had the audience cheering, howling with laughter and responding with the sort of whoops and hoots usually heard in aerobics classes. Even though he waffles publicly on abortion, Quayle opened to a standing ovation and things kept getting better.
His announcement that his book was outselling both Roseanne's and Howard Stern's aroused a response that sounded as if the barbarians already had been defeated. Quayle said,
"A grassroots movement is sweeping our country" and continued:
"Talk radio: Rush Limbaugh is king."
Yells. Cheers. Applause.
"There is a conservative tidal wave about to hit the shores of America."
A tidal wave of enthusiasm.
"Victory in 94 and goodbye Clintons in 96."
"The president said in New Orleans it would be in the best interests of children to be born in an intact family. Sound familiar?"
"Yeah!" screamed the crowd.
"The president has been complaining about the treatment he's been receiving from the media."
"Awwwwww!" groaned the crowd.
"Welcome aboard, Mr. President!"
The crowd went ballistic. And went home happy.
[picture caption]-Ralph Reed Jr., [executive director of the Christian Coalition, speaks at their fifth annual convention in Washington, D.C.] Michael Novak [RC] , Pat Robertson, 'Fr' Richard Neuhaus.
- END QUOTE-