“All for Jesus. All for Jesus. All for Jesus. All for Jesus,” – Sam Brownback’s stump speech in Iowa.  And some say I exaggerate the sectarian nature of the GOP base. ~Andrew Sullivan

Since Brownback won all of 15% in an unrepresentative straw poll in a state with a fairly sizeable population of very activist evangelicals, you could argue that even if Brownback were the embodiment of the “sectarian” and “fundamentalist” stereotype that Sullivan has laid out in his book and on his blog the significance of such supposedly fundamentalist sectaries for understanding the politics of the “GOP base” is minimal.  Against Brownback’s 15%, you have 31% who voted for a Mormon (the bete noire of the sectarians among us), almost 10% who voted for the decidedly non-sectarian, non-fundamentalist Ron Paul, 13% for Tancredo and 7% for Tommy Thompson–that’s 61% of poll voters who did not join up with the two most explicitly religious conservative candidates at Ames.  In this straw poll, it is fair to assume that the people who respond to Brownback’s rhetorical style are considerably overrepresented when compared with the party at large.  Given that Brownback is one of the least effective and weakest candidates in the field beyond his natural base of support, fundamentalist sectarianism is probably not on the verge of dominating the GOP.

Viewed another way, the quote has nothing to do with so-called “Christianism.”  What should Brownback have said?  “Nothing for Jesus”?  “A tiny bit for Jesus, provided that it falls within the safely defined parameters of the Wall of Separation”?  “Some for Jesus, the rest for me”?  “Jesus is all right, but I am entirely secular and therefore will say nothing unduly religious during this stump speech”?  Perhaps Brownback’s remarks here, like so many things the man says, need some qualification or elaboration, but what do Christians believe except that we should, as one of the prayers in the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom says, dedicate ourselves and “all our lives unto Christ our God”?  For Brownback to say this makes him as “sectarian” as any believing Christian, which is to say that he actually believes Christ’s teachings to be true and compelling.  I generally have no time for Brownback on many policy questions, but this criticism, like Sullivan’s entire categorisation of the Republicans as a “religious party,” is excessive and unfounded.  Perhaps if the GOP actually were something like a religious party, it would not, as an organisation, tolerate nearly so many atrocious policies.  On the contrary, we have something of the worst of both worlds: a thin patina of religiosity masking an agenda of corruption and violence.  This is not the fault of any “Christianism,” but the result of thoroughly secular operatives understanding how to play on the fears and hopes of conservative Christians to win their support and who then proceed to abandon everything these Christians hope to achieve in the political realm.  The proper criticism to be leveled at many Christian conservative leaders and politicians today is not so much that they are grasping or willing to compromise the Faith for power (although some may), but that they are incorrigibly gullible and willing to put their trust in princes who have no use for what Christian conservatives believe except in an election year.

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