I think the demagoguing of Park51 is a direct result of the GOP’s turn toward Christianism.
Long-time readers know that I disagree completely with Andrew’s notion of “Christianism” and especially with the idea that Chistian “fundamentalism” is at the root of the problems of the modern right. To the extent that “theocons” even exist, they have not been all that influential within the GOP, and most of the worst mistakes and errors Republicans and mainstream conservatives have made are the products of allowing secular ideological commitments to trump the obligations of the religions they claim to follow. If there is a religion, or pseudo-religion, that has warped American conservatism, it is Gelernter’s religion of Americanism or the nationalism that John Lukacs said had replaced or substituted for the religion of many American conservatives.
Indeed, as some serious religious conservatives have objected in the wake of the Beck rally, the problem is not that of “nationalist Christianity,” but simply a national civil religion that overwhelms and eradicates whatever might be distinctively or recognizably Christian. The impulse to treat the site of a terrorist atrocity as sacred space is not something derived from Christianity, but comes from the desire to make the place into a national symbol and to reinforce a feeling of national victimhood. The GOP hasn’t turned towards Christianism. The rise of Beck as a major figure on the right would be inexplicable if this were happening. Hostility to Park51 has entirely different sources. These are ultimately just as hostile to tradionalist Christianity, because any real religion stands as a rebuke and a threat to the cult of self-pity and self-congratulation that has been on display this summer.