“Mark you this, Bassanio, the devil can cite scripture for his own purpose”
The Merchant of Venice
I’ll cop to being an unabashed fan of Frank Bruni, and this piece on Dennis Hastert — “The Many Faces of Dennis Hastert” — is Bruni at his best. Not only does he lay bare the umpteenth example of a ‘born-again Christian’ engaging in a most un-Christian-like behavior — from the sexual abuse right on through to the cover up, and in between a Speakership that set new lows for ‘regular order’ and common civility — but he also finds the larger issue of how ‘our talent for compartmentalization’ explains behaviors that are bipartisan in nature. But what seems most disconcerting about the phenomenon isn’t whether it’s more common among one political party or the other, it's how prevalent it is among the so-called evangelicals, born-agains, faith-based, and as that stalwart American politician, Tom DeLay put it, “He [Hastert] is a good man that loves the Lord. He gets his integrity and values from Him.’
If this is what ‘loving the Lord’ can lead to, then perhaps this is good time for people to read a remarkable new book — “Putting God Second: How To Save Religion from Itself,” by Rabbi Donniel Hartman, president of the Shalom Hartman Institute. In his examination of how the monotheistic religions of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism frequently fail to deliver individuals and societies that fall short of the highest ethical standards, he makes this observation, which we shall treat as the final punctuation mark on the Hastert business:
“ . . . the failure of religion to produce individuals and societies that champion the values advocated in them is both puzzling and unsettling. Even more troubling is that often religious faith itself is the catalyst that emboldens individuals and governments to murder, maim, harm, and control others in the service of ’their’ god. While it is not credible to suggest that people of faith are definitely worse than those who do not believe, the fact that a life with God does not seem consistently to make people better is a failure of religion on its own terms, and ought to be a source of consternation for any serious believer.”
Happy May Day to all.
R. Garrett Mitchell
The Mitchell Report