Sunday, February 26, 2012

Let us not praise famous men

How stands the state of American reporting on religion, neighbor?

More than a century before Rick Santorum made his Christian beliefs the centerpiece of his candidacy, William Jennings Bryan, in 1896, ran the first national campaign aimed at people of faith.

Bryan, who would end his long public career defending the Bible at the Scopes "Monkey" Trial, not only opposed the new gold standard, he called it "the devil."

"You shall now press down upon the brow of labor your crown of thorns," he said. "You shall now crucify mankind upon your cross of gold."

Top that one, Rick.

Uh, no. Or more precisely, "no," "huh?" and "oh, stop it." Here's the Great Orator concluding his "Cross of Gold" speech:

Having behind us the commercial interests and the laboring interests and all the toiling masses, we shall answer their demands for a gold standard by saying to them, you shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.

Slight difference, you think?

Substituting "now" for "not" could be just carelessness. The rest -- whether this was "the first national campaign aimed at people of faith," whether the 1896 campaign actually was "aimed at people of faith," whether a biblical allusion at the end of a speech on monetary policy turns the speech into a sermon, whether Santorum's beliefs are indeed the "centerpiece" of his campaign, and how any of that might further an understanding of the 2012 campaign -- indicates a deeper problem.

Rush Limbaugh can't tell the difference between a religious allusion and a claim that Satan is out-and-out stalking America; if you don't want to be mistaken for Limbaugh (and as a journalist, you don't), you'd do well to avoid making random assertions about religion and political history. Let's keep that in mind as we try to put -- or deliberately ignore the relevance of putting -- the day's arguments into context.


Blogger Phillip Blanchard said...

At least Charlotte fixed it.

5:27 PM, February 26, 2012  

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