Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition: Five Republicans fight for the faith(ful) in Iowa
Jacques Berlinerblau is associate professor and Director of the Program for Jewish Civilization at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. He has doctorates in Ancient Near Eastern languages and literature (from NYU) and theoretical sociology (from the New School for Social Research). He writes the blog The God Vote, an exploration of the role of faith in the 2008 U.S. presidential race, for Newsweek’s On Faith website. A nonbeliever himself, he also has written articles critical of the “New Atheism” movement.
The 2012 Republican Presidential race for conservative Christian hearts and minds and votes got off to an unbelievable start yesterday—really, I mean, beyond anything I could have ever dreamed of—when the ultra-Conservative, Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition hosted its 11th Annual Spring Kick off.
I hadn’t even pulled my Scofield Reference Bible down off the shelf when the evening’s MC, Gopal Krishna, was already lambasting the “weird and kinky lifestyles” that have become prevalent in our sinful nation.
The five presidential sort-of-hopefuls who showed up did not disappoint their audience at Point of Grace Church in Waukee, Iowa. Nor did warm-up speaker congressman Steve King who assured us “If we get the culture right the economy will be right eventually.” Nor did the founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, Ralph Reed, who implied that it may be necessary to overthrow the American government (about which more anon).
Reading the Constitution the Way Evangelicals Read the Bible: At least Mike Huckabee (who also did not show up tonight) had the honesty to admit back in 2008 that he viewed the Constitution as subservient to the Bible.
No such hierarchy was evident this evening. Speaker after speaker invoked the Bible, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution as if they all unequivocally proffered explicit, full-throated, red-lettered, denunciations of entitlements, Planned Parenthood, and “ObamaCare.”
As a scholar of the Bible I find it fascinating, and alarming, that so many politicians (even Catholic ones such as Gingrich and Santorum) are reading the Constitution precisely the same way evangelicals read their Scriptures.
That is to say these conservative Christians believe that: 1) the Constitution is infallible and inerrant, 2) they can discern its “original intent,” 3) this original intent always synchronizes with their political worldview, and, 4) all other attempts to understand that original intent put forth since, let’s say, 1791 are misguided and perhaps satanic if they diverge from aforesaid political worldview.
Going into 2012, a great service that professors of law could render the lay public is to explain to them the absurdity of this interpretive strategy. I call upon conservative legal scholars, whose work I have always appreciated and learned from, to use their lecterns to stop the “originalist” or “strict constructionist” madness. The Constitution is not the Bible.