First Things Magazine, April 1996

By Richard John Neuhaus

We were wrong. The Interfaith Alliance does so have a telephone. That new organization of what some have called the Radical Religious Left is even sending out fund solicitations to combat the "Radical Religious Right." Dr. Herbert Valentine, whom the letterhead describes as a chair and who is former moderator of the Presbyterian Church USA, declares, "I am a minister of the Gospel-a person of faith who gets angry when the language of religion is used to cloak an agenda rested in hatred and intolerance." We might point out that a well-rested agenda is better than the weary reaction of the Interfaith Alliance, but we try not to give offense. Fully seven of the nineteen worthies on the letterhead are listed as "former" or "emeritus." There is one Unitarian, two rabbis, and a Catholic bishop (an auxiliary of Baltimore whom we will not embarrass by naming). They claim to be convinced that Pat Robertson and his minions are engaged in a campaign of hatred and intolerance to do nothing less than overthrow our democratic form of government. Apparently the rascal has admitted as much, for they quote Robertson as saying, "Democracy is the next-best government." Mr. Robertson probably said that, meaning that the best government is the direct rule of God, but for that we must await the Kingdom of God. By the same trickery one could depict Winston Churchill as the enemy of democracy. After all, he did say, "Democracy is the worst form of government known to man." Of course he added, "Except for all the others that have been tried." But then, what's a little mendacity and hysteria if it will serve to rouse liberalism from its coma? "Will you join us," the letter asks, "in saying 'enough is enough' to Pat Robertson, Ralph Reed, and their fellow extremists?" It's nice of you to ask, but no thank you. (Especially considering that they probably count us among the fellow extremists.) Listed on the letterhead are Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning of the Episcopal Church and the Rev. Joan Brown Campbell, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches (NCC). Bishop Browning is on record as a champion of the quest for unity among Christians, and the NCC, established to advance ecumenism, has in recent years talked about the importance of reaching out to evangelicals. Obviously, that does not include uppity evangelicals who actually want a voice in how the country is run. The letter underscores, "As deeply committed men and women of faith, we cannot be silent when political extremists try to seize for their own narrow purposes the language and symbols of religious faith." It's a touching thing to see the political moderates bestir themselves to come out of retirement and, eschewing any appeal to the language and symbols of religious faith, break their silence in calling us to return to their broad purposes that have served the country so well. Remember that these are people who have had to endure one disappointment after another, not the least being George McGovern's declining to run again. It no doubt takes a deeply committed faith to keep going.