The Politics of Craig Carter Dissected

As someone who has essentially gone in the opposite direction to me politically (left to right vs. right to left), I often find Craig Carter quite interesting, making me wonder if I missed anything on the way out (or is it on the way in?) Anyway, Carter gets to step back on reflect on his views a bit more in an interview by Andrew Walker of Mere Orthodoxy that is serialized into three posts starting here. As a side-note, these sorts of posts are helpful in understanding the thought processes of authors/speakers/bloggers more so than their own writing in many cases. In the first post I was able to pick up on a number of things that animate Carters political commitments as they now stand. Here is my take on a couple of these points.

Carter starts off by asserting that Christians are uniquely able to to run a government. What unnerved me in Carter’s comments is a sort of disturbing optimism in his assessment of how well Christians are able to participate in politics. Says Carter,

“Thoughtful and pious Christians are the people who can be trusted to govern best in this world because they are well aware of the failings of human nature due to original sin, which minimizes their tendency toward embracing Utopianism, and because they have a sense of being accountable to God on the Day of Judgment, which gives them a healthy fear of killing the innocent no matter how good the cause.  Of course, Christians often fail to live up to their best insights and when they do fail it negates their advantage.”

The problem here is quite simply that human nature is such that we often fail our own best insights precisely when we believe we are being thoughtful and/or pious. I often see religious conviction (and indeed the religious-like conviction of the New Atheists) as fuel for a false sense of certainty.

Carter goes on to explain that 2008 was the year that he threw in with the political right,

“One was the rise of the Evangelical Left and the total support that people like Jim Wallis, Tony Campolo and Brian McLaren gave to the Democratic Party in the run-up to the election of Barack Obama.  The degree to which they were in the tank for the Democratic Party […]

Another thing that happened was the media’s treatment of Sarah Palin after she was selected to be John McCain’s running mate in the Fall of 2008.  A group of people who have no problem with bowing to Islamic censorship of Western newspapers under threats of violence tried to convince the rest of us that she is a threat to democracy because she is a Pentecostal and she refused to abort a handicapped child.”

That Carter was apparently part of the Evangelical Left when this all went down makes it sort of odd that he was upset that people like Wallis, Campolo and McLaren were organizing. Complaining that they were “in the tank” for the Dems seems a bit rich since the Evangelical Right has been pretty committed to voting a straight GOP ticket since at least 1980. Are James Dobson, Pat Robertson, or Ralph Reed any less “in the tank” for the GOP. I don’t think a fair-minded assessment of US politics would reveal that the Evangelical Right has been fundamentally more independent-minded.

As far as Sarah Palin goes, she may be a Christian and sure, some committed secularists didn’t like that, but most people who opposed her were more concerned with her apparent total lack of qualification for the job. Sure some people said mean things to her, but that comes with being in the public eye. If she was called a religious extremist or dumb her opponent was called a Nazi, communist, cryto-Muslim, black nationalist, hippie, and of course “magic negro.” Does Carter just consider that the cut and thrust of politics and somehow different than abusing Sarah Palin’s name?

The realization that sometimes people say mean things in politics has never been one to sway me, so I am curious whether the attacks on Palin constituted in Carter’s mind some special category of political assault, whether it was simply identification with her religious affiliations that aroused his sympathies or something else.