Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Thought for the Day: (When Jesus was a Democrat)

Jackson Lears: "To anyone who cares about the fate of our republic, these are troubling times. Yet seldom has our public discourse seemed so inadequate to the seriousness of the situation. George W. Bush's administration has pushed us into moral and constitutional crisis, but the media remain committed to business as usual--trivializing criticism of the president as partisan bickering, finding expert apologists for power to sanction appalling departures from American tradition. Think-tank intellectuals with impeccable credentials calmly discuss torture as an instrument of national policy. Bush himself, having deceived Americans into supporting his disastrous Iraq adventure, now asserts his authority to ignore legislative constraints of any kind. 'Presidential historians' on public television solemnly compare him to Lincoln and other 'wartime presidents,' overlooking the egregious flaw in this analogy: we are not in a state of war. Instead we are in a state of permanent emergency, a murky atmosphere of genuine danger and popular anxiety that can be deployed to justify just about any expansion of executive power.

Meanwhile the Democrats dither. Of course, this is not entirely fair. The media's fascination with power renders serious criticism almost invisible. When Al Gore gave a major speech on Martin Luther King Day cataloging Bush's misdeeds, only a few major media outlets reported it. But too many of the Democrats who are actually in public office, who bear some responsibility for sustaining an opposition party, are apparently unwilling to challenge the unchecked power of the presidency....

Given this insipid excuse for opposition, Democrats might well re-examine their own traditions in search of inspiration. In the not-too-distant past, they would discover a different political universe, one that would baffle the current purveyors of red state/blue state conventional wisdom. In that strange time and place--I refer to the early twentieth-century United States--populism was about economic power as well as cultural style, and popular Christianity was about questioning imperial hubris as well as sanctifying crusades. The leading socialist newspaper came out of Kansas; the governor of Arkansas was known as a "Karl Marx for hillbillies"; and farmers crowded into Nebraska town squares to hear politicians denounce monopoly power. The most eloquent and prominent of those orators was certainly William Jennings Bryan."

The above except comes from Lear's review of Michal Kazin's new biography of Bryan, a man who was every bit a Christian and every bit a progressive democrat, someone who knew Jesus as a prophet of economic justice, and not as a proponent of surefire personal success.

I wonder what Toby and the CrossCurrentJews would do with a man like Bryan? Would they find themselves drawn to him because of his impeccable personal virtue, in the way that they are drawn today to modern Christians? Or would they reject him for his liberalism, and for his own rejection of the Gospel of Selfishness?

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