August 31, 2007 | 15 Comments
Karl Rove is an agnostic who manipulated the Christian Right for political gain, charges PBS commentator Bill Moyers. Rove, a self-described observant Episcopalian, labels the charge a “drive-by slander.” In a defense of Rove, Fox News’ Chris Wallace asserts that Moyers is guilty of lazy journalism:
If you want to find out about someone’s religious beliefs, a good first step might be to ask him. If you had talked to Rove as I did, you would have found out he reads a devotional every day, and the biggest charitable contribution he ever made was to his church.
The video clip has been widely touted as a “smackdown” but I think its demonstrates naivete more than anything else. The criticism makes little sense in view of the very issue in dispute. Rove was accused of misrepresenting his religious beliefs. If he would be willing to do that, he’d also be willing misrepresent every fact relevant to his beliefs. He could be lying about the devotionals and the contributions. Or he could be praying and paying to maintain a façade of faith in pursuit of another agenda. I suppose one could ask him as him if he were lying about his faith, and if he denied it further inquire if he were lying about lying – and so on and on. But that is not the sort of infinite regress that generally comes to rest upon a foundation of truth. It’s lies all the way down. It’s puzzling that Wallace would rely on anything Rove said to prove his point, given that in the missive to which he was replying, Moyers clearly announced that he did not “take [Rove's] every word as gospel.”
There is a tendency to take people’s accounts of their religion at face value. To “question” a person’s faith is often met with the same indignation as questioning their patriotism. But faith, patriotism and indignation can all be feigned. And while it may be true that people who might lie about lesser things are truthful when it comes discussing what they hold sacred, that presumption only applies to people who do in fact hold something sacred. If they don’t, they might have no compunction at all about saying they do.
But if Wallace is naive, Moyers is just ridiculous. He’s a self-described agnostic who has built a career on doing exactly what he condemns Rove for. He promotes the liberal Christianity of the Democratic party, a faith so cynical as to be self-mocking. It was epitomized by Howard Dean’s embrace of Jesus in the last election cycle, and you can expect a group hug in the months to come.