Former U.S. Ambassador to the UN, former GOP Senator– and Episcopal priest — John Danforth is at it again.
According to a story running on Religion News Service, “Since publishing two confrontational op-ed pieces in The New York Times earlier this year, Danforth has accepted a series of invitations to take his provocative questions on the road. This fall, he’s a panelist at Notre Dame, a guest preacher at Harvard and Yale, and a featured speaker for Roman Catholic and Episcopal groups in Washington. Danforth is on a speaking tour denouncing the “divisiveness” of the Christian Right.”
“I’ve been away from (the Senate) for more than 10 years,” he said recently at the Memorial church at Harvard University, “and I see politics from a distance. And I’m appalled by what I see…. Right there in the midst of all the partisanship, in the midst of all the nastiness, right there with their wedge issues and litmus tests and extreme rhetoric, right there as the most divisive force in American life, are my fellow Christians.”
As encouraging as it is to hear Danforth speaking out, his words are unlikely to have much effect. The power of the Christian Right is not in the divisiveness of their rhetoric, although that is a factor. It is in the political power they have attained — largely through the effectiveness of their political organizing. What Falwell, Robertson, and Dobson say now is little different, and no more divisive, than what they were saying 20 years ago when Danforth was in the U.S. Senate and not (to my knowledge) speaking out. Since that time, the Christian Right has become the best organized faction in American politics — and one of the most powerful.
As someone who has been writing and speaking about this subject for almost 25 years, I want to underscore that as important as issues of language are, they are not as important — not nearly as important — as issues of power.
I’d like to hear what John Danforth thinks should be done about those.