The combustible elements of religion and politics helped fuel Pat Buchanan’s close second finish in the Iowa Republican caucuses. They are also propelling him to new heights of respectability in today’s New Hampshire primary. If Buchanan does well in New Hampshire, expect to see somber-faced theologians, spokespersons for the ACLU and politicians whose god is government showing up on television to lament this “threat’ to the Constitution and our way of life. They will also warn that religion and politics don’t mix – though the record of mixing irreligion with politics is nothing to cheer.
What they mean, of course, is that conservative religion and conservative politics don’t mix.
Take the secretary of the Interior, Bruce Babbitt, who has, as they say, gotten religion. According to Washington Post columnist Colman McCarthy, Babbitt has rediscovered the Catholic faith of his youth.
McCarthy writes approvingly, “Signs appear that the Secretary of the Interior is also growing in his religious convictions, a growth that increasingly brings together his public policy bents and private theological beliefs.’
Now just a minute. I thought this co-mingling of public policy with faith – which the ACLU tolerates only if it’s kept private – jeopardizes the spirit of pluralism, multiculturalism and the diversity gospel liberals have tried to spread.
And what form does Babbitt’s joining of faith and public policy take? Is Babbitt about to break ranks with his bosses over abortion or gays in the military? Hardly. According to McCarthy, the secretary’s rediscovered faith has led him to a deeper commitment to the Endangered Species Act.
Babbitt tried last year to add 239 species to the endangered list of animals and plants (yes, plants, but not unborn children), but Congress refused. In a recent speech, Babbitt said, “Outside the church, I always had a nagging instinct that the vast landscape was somehow sacred and holy and connected to me in a sense that my catechism ignored.’
“Left on his own,’ writes McCarthy, “or partly so if you believe that God’s grace saves lost minds as well as lost souls, Babbitt had a conversion to a deeper, richer Catholicism.’ And how did this transformation occur? Did Babbitt have a vision? Did he have an audience with the pope? Not quite. McCarthy says Babbitt’s transformation came courtesy of a Hopi Indian from northern Arizona: “One summer, he taught the future governor some of the tribe’s religious beliefs and rites.’
By the end of that summer, Babbitt is quoted as saying, “I came to believe, deeply and irrevocably, that the land . . . and all the plants and animals in the natural world are together a direct reflection of divinity, that creation is a plan of God.’
I love my cat, but she is not a reflection of divinity. In fact, Babbitt’s theology comes close to animism, “the attribution of conscious life to nature or natural objects.’ It certainly is not mainstream Roman Catholic or Christian doctrine.
But religion aside (which is where many liberals would like to keep it except for their trinity of Earth, trees and animals), if this were the Christian Coalition delivering a public policy edict using quotations from the Bible and applying them to legislation, the howl from the self-anointed guardians of our freedoms would be deafening.
Clearly we should be good stewards of the earth, but if Babbitt would consult a Gideon Bible the next time he’s in a motel room, he would learn of the admonition to worship the Creator and not the things he created.
So many political and theological liberals need a cause to substitute for their moral obtuseness on such issues as abortion and homosexual behavior. They’ve found it in the worship of animals and plants. Maybe Pat Buchanan should take his cat on the campaign trail. He might win some additional votes.
Cal Thomas is an author, broadcast commentator and syndicated columnist. His column is distributed by the Los Angeles Times Syndicate.