By David Hill - 04/26/06 12:00 AM EDT
Pity poor Kevin Phillips. I can just imagine him holed up behind locked doors in his Litchfield, Conn., home, afraid to venture forth for fear that a horde of evangelical Christians and Texas oilmen might be out there somewhere waiting to get him.
In his new book, American Theocracy, a paranoid Phillips portrays the United States as perilously close to George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead,” only this time the zombies are Christians and Republicans.
In the small window afforded by this column, I’d like to focus on Phillips’s conclusions about religion rather than his observations on oil, wealth and other old targets. Because Phillips chose to title the book American Theocracy, it seems he wants his new thrusts in this realm to be the tip of his spear.
In a nutshell, Phillips argues that a coalition of churches has become the organizational backbone and think tank of the Republican Party. The evidence for this conclusion seems to be inferred from various polls and the testimony of a few experts, but in a surprising move for such an esteemed scholar, Phillips uses USA Today as one of his foundational sources. For example, he often cites a 2004 article by Susan Page, “Churchgoing closely tied to voting patterns,” as evidence that a “religion gap” is “bigger, more powerful” and growing faster than the gender gap.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying Susan Page isn’t a brilliant reporter, but she’s hardly a “primary source” to unravel complex issues of voting and public opinion. But because Phillips desperately needs her conclusions to bolster his thesis, he overrelies on this and other journalistic material.
Stereotyping is also in abundance. One example is his bizarre characterization of the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church. In several instances, he goes off on this traditionally conservative body, blaming it for GOP successes in the Midwest and linking it to male domination of society, speaking the German language and other cultural oddities. Phillips’s impressions of this denomination are hopelessly out of date, so his conclusions about its influences cannot be trusted.
Phillips also fails to acknowledge any information that undermines his thesis about the religious right. In particular, he overlooks that conservative Christendom is hardly united for political action.
The conservative critiques cataloged by traditionalist Cal Thomas in Blinded by Might are not acknowledged. The criticism of politicization of the faith by prominent Christian authors like John MacArthur is totally missing. In a recent set of essays titled Fool’s Gold, MacArthur prot