Sen. Mark Pryor, himself an evangelical Christian, has rebutted those members of the Religious Right who talk Christian theology but live partisan ideology. Their message is that all those who don’t share their conservative political viewpoints — support of President Bush’s extremist judicial nominees, for example — should be silenced and removed from office, until such time as they burn in hell.
“It is presumptuous of them to think that they represent all Christians in America, even to say they represent all evangelical Christians,” Pryor told a group of reporters. Their tactics threaten “to make the followers of Jesus Christ just another special-interest group,” he said.
The validity of Pryor’s warning was confirmed Sunday, when Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist spoke by video hookup at a political rally for a Republican plan to force a major Senate rules change unless Democrats stop opposing Bush’s nominees. The rally was held at a big Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., and simulcast to 130 other churches. It was reminiscent of the “Elect Bush” services held in Northwest Arkansas churches last fall. Baptists used to want to save souls. Now they want to elect Republicans.
Pryor’s courage and common sense sent the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette editorial page into a fury. The D-G rushed to defend the pulpit bullies from the man who stood up to them, and the defense was flagrantly dishonest: “The most dismaying thing about Mark Pryor’s remarks is that he wasn’t arguing the substance of the political issue at hand but that some folks, namely Christians, shouldn’t be expressing their views at all.” Christians like himself shouldn’t express their views — Pryor argued no such thing, of course, and never will. The accusation was an example of the kind of thing that he had deplored. What Pryor did, in fact, was express his views as a Christian. He just didn’t claim that his views were the only ones a Christian could hold.
The Democrat-Gazette editorialist was doubtless stung by Pryor’s actual words. Like the Dobsons, Falwells and Robertsons it admires, the D-G pretends to value morality while supporting Bush’s program of fattening the rich and starving the poor, and spoiling the planet in the process.
But there’s another reason besides hypocrisy for the attack on Mark Pryor, and that is his last name. The family that owns the Hussman chain of newspapers has hated the Pryors ever since Senator Pryor’s father, David, was a small competing publisher, who compounded his offense by winning elections against Hussman-backed candidates even as the chain blacked his name out of its papers. Pryors v. Hussmans is one of the great feuds of Arkansas politics. It has been the good fortune of the people of Arkansas that the battles have mostly been won by the Pryors.