Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mitt Romney's Commencement Advice: WWCCD (What Would Charles Colson Do)?

Mitt Romney, in an attempt to assure the Religious Right of his social conservative bona fides, delivered the commencement address at Liberty University, the Evangelical Christian University founded by Jerry Falwell.

The reviews are in and it appears that he was a hit with the white Evangelicals he was trying to win over.  As the Christian Science Monitor reports, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, praised Romney's "well-delivered speech," which "accentuated the core values issues that are essential to a strong nation and of great importance to evangelicals . .  that America's financial greatness is directly tied to moral and cultural wholeness.”  And Richard Land, the Baptist pastor from Tennessee who heads The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, agreed, finding shared "values and a similar worldview" on marriage and abortion.

It was this common worldview which Romney stressed in trying to bridge the gap between his Mormon faith and that of these conservative Christians:  
People of different faiths, like yours and mine, sometimes wonder where we can meet in common purpose, when there are so many differences in creed and theology. Surely the answer is that we can meet in service, in shared moral convictions about our nation stemming from a common worldview. The best case for this is always the example of Christian men and women working and witnessing to carry God’s love into every life - people like the late Chuck Colson.
Yes of course, "always the example" of the late Charles Wendell Colson, former hatchet man for Richard Nixon, whose ruthlessness was captured by his oft-quoted remark that he would "walk over my own grandmother" if it would help Nixon get re-elected.  H.R. Haldeman wrote that Colson “encouraged the dark impulses in Nixon’s mind and acted on those impulses instead of ignoring them and letting them die.”  Among his many dastardly acts was compiling Nixon's infamous "enemies list," orchestrating the effort to discredit Daniel Ellsberg, and hiring E. Howard Hunt, who later led the Watergate break-in.

Hunter S. Thompson described Colson as "the guiding light behind Nixon's whole arsenal of illegal, immoral, unethical 'black advance' or 'dirty tricks' department."  (See Fear and Loathing at the Watergate, where HST writes about his "abortive plot" to "seize Colson out of his house and drag him down Pennsylvania Avenue tied behind a huge gold Oldsmobile Cutlass" and "cutting him loose in front of the White House Guard Gate," an idea hatched out of frustration that Colson -- at that time -- appeared to be "the only one of Nixon's first-rank henchmen who would probably not even be indicted."  But I digress.)

Turns out Colson was indicted on obstruction of justice charges for leaking information to the press about Ellsberg, for which he served seven months in federal prison.  By then he had become an Evangelical Christian, and while serving time founded a prison ministry.

He thus became, as Sarah Posner writes, "the original culture warrior," who "helped forge the Catholic-evangelical alliance against abortion."
He was nothing short of a battle commander in the cosmic culture wars, the manufactured showdown between the “Christian worldview” — the only “true” way to see things — and other “worldviews” he insisted were antithetical to it.
Put another way, as Ed Kilgore does, Colson
was for many years the chief advocate among conservative evangelicals of a “united front” with other conservative Christians (notably Catholic “traditionalists”) to pursue an aggressive cultural agenda wrapped in claims that those enemies of the “Christian worldview” were threatening religious liberty, which happens to have become the battle-cry of Christian Right opposition to Barack Obama. 
So what better role model could young conservative Christians have than Chuck Colson because, as Hunter at Daily Kos writes
when you think about how to be a good, upstanding Christian, you should be thinking about convicted Watergate felon Chuck Colson, who did nasty things for partisan political gain, got caught, got sent to prison, and then discovered that mentioning Jesus was a fine way to make a generation of religious conservatives consider your own felon-for-your-party path through life as a decent career choice. Be like Chuck!

2 comments:

lonbud said...

Brilliant. I have been thus far totally dismissive of Romney's chances in November but I'm beginning to crack a little. I'm pinning my hopes more on the hope that the more people get to know him the less they will like him--and less on Obama's intrinsic appeal. Willard is yet another in a long line of waterboys for the Dark Side.

Strannick said...

I read and loved HST. I also read Colson's ''Born Again''. It account sounds sincere, and his theology was not trivial. I admire both men.

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