Crazy for God, part 3 – Politics and Ideological Purity

On the subject of politics, Frank Schaeffer is not reticent about sharing his feelings. He spends a good deal of time writing about the roles he and his father played in the genesis of the religious right, and how his feelings about their co-conspirators, men like James Dobson and Jerry Falwell, evolved over time. For instance, he writes:

What began to bother me was that so many of our new “friends” on the religious right seemed to be rooting for one form of apocalypse or another. In the crudest form, this was part of the evangelical fascination with the so-called end times. The worse things got, the sooner Jesus would come back. But there was another component: the worse everything got, the more it proved that American needed saving, by us!

Long before Ralph Reed and his ilk came on the scene, Dad got sick of “these idiots,” as he often called people like Dobson in private. There were “plastic,” Dad said, and “power-hungry.” They were “Way too right-wing, really nuts!” and “They’re using our issue to build their empires.”

On page 347, in a passage that merits discussion this year, Frank writes about ideological purity, the need for intelligent debate and decision making, and possible hindrances to said goal.

It seems to me that by demanding ideological purity on abortion (and other single issues as well), both parties have worked to eliminate the sorts of serious smart pragmatic people who make competent leaders. What we are left with are those willing to toe the party theological line, who are talented at kissing the asses of their party’s ideologues, raising money, and looking good on TV, but not much else.
But what if absolute consistency on any issue from the left or the right, religious or secular, is an indication of mediocre intelligence and a lack of intellectual honesty? What if the world is a complex place? What if leadership requires flexibility? What if ideology is a bad substitute for common sense? What if ideological consistency, let alone “purity,” is a sign of small-mindedness, maybe even stupidity?

Links to parts one and two.

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