"Be Not Afraid of Evangelicals" - Be afraid of Washington Post columnists who use logic every bit as tortured as Glen Beck's to imply that critics of Bachmann and Perry's extremist beliefs are unfair and biased against all Christians and Evangelicals
In a Washington Post home page piece titled "Be Not Afraid of Evangelicals" Belief Watch editor Lisa Miller offers a dazzling display of Glen Beck style incoherent argumentation in order to make entirely factual reports of Bachmann and Perry's associations with extremist religious sects sound unfair and biased against all Christians and Evangelicals.
Here is a word by word, sentence by sentence deconstruction of the bizarre Glen-Beckian pseudo-logic in the first six paragraphs of her piece.
Step 1 -- Assert without evidence that "news stories" are creating fears "on the left" about "crazy Christians"
Here we go again. The Republican primaries are six months away, and already news stories are raising fears on the left about "crazy Christians."
Step 2 -- Cite three stories not one of which actually demonstrates the statement above. Quite the contrary, each one of the three articles cites Bachmann and Perry's ties to specific minority religious sects and not one of the articles states or implies that the views of these sects are in any way typical of all evangelicals or Christians.One piece connects Texas Gov. Rick Perry with a previously unknown Christian group called "The New Apostolic Reformation," whose main objective is to "infiltrate government." Another highlights whacko-sounding Christian influences on Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. A third cautions readers to be afraid, very afraid, of "dominionists."
Step 3-- Avoid the embarrassing problem that the three articles cited absolutely do not generalize about all Evangelicals or Christians by warning about a sinister "echo chamber effect"- an effect for which not a single piece of evidence is presented.The stories raise real concerns about the world views of two prospective Republican nominees. But their echo-chamber effect reignites old anxieties among liberals about evangelical Christians. Some on the left seem suspicious that a firm belief in Jesus equals a desire to take over the world. (Some extremist Christians leveled a similar charge against Barack Obama in 2008, that he was the antichrist aiming to take over world governments.)
Step 4 - Present an assertion about a specific sect as if it were an attack on evangelicals or Christians as a whole when it patently, transparently and self-evidently is not.As Rachel Maddow so sarcastically said of the New Apostolic Reformation on "The Rachel Maddow Show" on Aug. 10 : "Their goal, world domination, blah blah blah."
Step 5 - Concede the validity of the three articles' basic description of the views of the minority sects with which Bachmann and Perry are associated:Extremist dominionists do exist, as theocrats who hope to transform our democracy into something that looks like ancient Israel, complete with stoning as punishment. But "it's a pretty small world," says Worthen, who studies these groups.
Step 6 - Directly pivot 180 degrees from this statement and return to the original groundless accusation as if it follows logically. Accuse the articles - or the echo chamber effect - of lumping together all Christians and Evangelicals with the extremist fringe - when Miller herself is the only person who is doing the lumping.This isn't a defense of the religious beliefs of Bachmann or Perry, whatever they are. It's a plea, given the acrimonious tone of our political discourse, for a certain amount of dispassionate care in the coverage of religion. Nearly 80 percent of Americans say they're Christian. One-third of Americans call themselves "evangelical." When millions of voters get lumped together and associated with the fringe views of a few, divisions will grow.
(1) Miller decides without any evidence at all that articles which accurately describe the Dominionist views of the sects with which Bachmann and Perry are associated must necessarily be inciting liberals to accept unfairly biased views about Christians and Evangelicals as a whole.
(2) As a result, she proceeds to criticize the articles for being unfair to all Christians and Evangelicals because- regardless of what the articles actually said - she has unilaterally decided that what they "really" meant, implied, intended or resulted in was to malign all Christians and Evangelicals.
(3) On top of this she then assumes - again without evidence - that an "echo chamber" process has already occurred and that liberals and the left have already developed a renewed "fear" of "crazy Christians" as a result - a social problem so significant that it must be heroically challenged on the home page of the Washington Post.
The ultimate irony of Miller's piece is that she herself engages in precisely the kind of stereotyping of which she unfairly accuses her self-created anti-Christian opponents. Look through the paragraphs again and notice the undifferentiated use of the terms "liberals" and "the left" to describe people who are "afraid of crazy Christians" , "seem suspicious that a firm belief in Jesus equals a desire to take over the world" , "lump together and associate [millions of Americans] with the fringe views of a few."
Perhaps a quick look at Matthew 7:3 is in order: "And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?"
But then again, in an argument where elementary logic and a minimal respect for factual evidence are nowhere to be found, a capacity for self-reflection is equally unlikely to reside.