02 February 2006

The Washington Post’s Peter Slevin profiles John Danforth, Episcopal priest, former senator, and current naysayer to the Christian right. Danforth’s recent and vocal criticisms of his fellow Republicans for falling too much under the influence of conservative evangelicaldom has focused a lot on Republicans’ most obvious blunders: Terri Schiavo, stem-cell research, the shrillness of their moralizing. (Danforth himself, writes Slevin, “worships a humbler God.”) In other words, Danforth is channeling moderation itself: religion is good — he himself has been known as “St. Jack” and, in a former life, prepped Clarence Thomas for his confirmation hearings with a tape-recorded version of “Onward Christian Soldiers” — but the middle road is better. And it’s on these points that Slevin, at times, seems so awestruck by Danforth — or possibly his win-win combination of mainstream Christianity and moderate-conservative politics — that he turns the former senator’s ultra-moderation into a revolutionary stance: The Ten Commandments debate is over-hyped. Bam! Gay marriage is going too far, but so is explicit, and distasteful gay-bashing. Take that! And the capper: an endorsement by the self-anointed Man in the Middle, Jim Wallis, who promises that, “better religion” — meaning moderate evangelicalism and Catholicism — is the faith of the future. Amid this love-fest of conservative politicos and liberals suckered in by the contrast between moderates like Danforth and, say, Jerry Falwell, leave it to an immoderate voice, that of conservative author John J. Pitney Jr., to state the obvious: “‘Moderation is no more an ideology than pastel is a color. It’s just a muted version of something else.’”