The Great Karnak Knows Without Reading
Randall Balmer has an essay in the most recent Chronicle of Higher Education entitled Jesus Is Not A Republican.
Balmer is a professor of religious history at Barnard College. The Assistant Village Idiot puts his fingers to his temples and makes some guesses: (Full disclosure: I read the opening one-sentence blurb, so I did see the phrase “drunk on power.” Therefore I made no predictions about what would be written about that, figuring I had an unfair hint.)
Scoring is in bold type.
1. Balmer will use black-and-white rhetoric to decry the black-and-white thinking of the Religious Right. Their approaches will not be criticized for being unwise or inadequate, they will be condemned as completely without merit. Other sides to any religious argument will simply not exist, because he knows the Bible better than you. Arggh! I missed one right at the beginning: raised as an evangelical. Minus 1 point Otherwise, perfect score (The Bible I read…) 9 out of 10
1A. Oh, and we’re closed-minded, too. Perfect 3 bonus points
2. Ballmer will note that God loves the poor. Therefore, we know the Religious Right has perverted the gospel, because they are in favor of cutting the poor off without a farthing. There will be no mention in Ballmer of what conservative evangelicals want to do for the poor, because it is so obviously a sham that it doesn’t bear mentioning. The RR doesn't want to do what the liberals want, therefore they don't care about the poor. Too easy. 10 out of 10
2A. He will believe every liberal spin of economic statistics as if they are unassailable. Tax cuts for the rich and corporate greed will both be mentioned at least twice each. This will prove that the Religious Right hates the poor. Perfect 3 bonus points
3. He will complain how today’s public Christians are rotten, not like the Christians in the Good Old Days when he was a boy, and were involved with the Civil Rights movement and the anti-war protests. I was pretty much wrong on this one. There are only hints with the McGovern reference. 1 out of 10 points. Ouch
3A. The 50-50 chance of mentioning the abolitionists will rise to 90-10 because he’s a religious history professor. “City on a Hill” will be mentioned. perfect 3 bonus points
4. He will explain that the war in Iraq is unjust because it doesn’t adhere to “just war” doctrine, by which he will mean “We didn’t get final approval from the UN.” The extended examinations of Just War doctrine by other Christians who reached different conclusions, such as over at First Things, will not be mentioned. Conveniently, they won’t have to be refuted, either. “…would not meet even the barest of just war criteria…” Score! He doesn’t mention the UN (I suspect it’s in his head though), which keeps me off full credit. 8 out of 10 points
5. We will learn that he has a book coming out. Being published in a Respectable Magazine, getting paid for having a captive college audience for his ideas, and having a book published will not alter his claim that the Religious Right unfairly dominates the public religious discourse. Dead on.Perfect 10 out of 10
6. Ruining the environment for corporate interests – what the rest of us would call “jobs” – will be mentioned in vague terms 4-7 times. The terms will be vague because he doesn’t really know much science. But he knows we’re ruining the environment. He mentions it a lot in one paragraph, but I don’t think that’s the same as 4-7 times. 5 out of 10 points.
7. He will start and end his essay in kindly language that has the condescension buried quite deep. More full-throated sneering will occur in the body of the essay.The disdain isn’t well buried at the beginning and end: “minions of the right” in the second paragraph and “…not even Karl Rove and James Dobson lie beyond the reach of redemption.” In the second-to-last. But the middle does have even more intense sneering. The obligation to the poor has not trickled down (sneer) into public policy. “their machinery of vilification strikes with ruthless, dispassionate efficiency.” 9 out of 10 points.
8. Balmer will hate abortion, but not enough to do anything about it. I mean, he really, really hates it, like you just don't know how much he hates it, but that doesn't mean we should do anything except look sad. "I have no interest in making abortion illegal; I would like to make it unthinkable." Really? Does he want to apply that persuasion-only approach to poverty, war, and the environment, too? Nah. The government should listen to wise people like him and make people do the right thing. Perfect 10 for 10 points here.
I will come back shortly with the scoring: up to 10 points on each prediction, with up to 3 bonus points for the sub-predictions. Points will be deducted for things I should have predicted, but missed.
Deduction points: things I should have seen coming:
Theocracy. How could I miss that? minus 2
Theology in the schools minus 1
injustice and bondage minus 1
people on the margins of society no penalty, because I got the related concepts.
Hypocrisy of some on the the RR I never should have missed that. minus 2
Pluralism minus 1
"Seamless garment" of life issues. minus 1
Final score: 64 out of a possible 80. Not bad.