It’s in all the translations of Galatians 6:7. The New American Standard Bible (1995) – Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. The GOD’S WORD translation (1995) – Make no mistake about this: You can never make a fool out of God. Whatever you plant is what you’ll harvest. The King James – Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. The American Standard Version – Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
It’s a pretty simple idea. You may think you’re smart and on top of things, but what you have done, thinking it was cool and would get you what you want, will come back and bite you in the ass. You think you’re so smart, but just thinking you are smart is, in fact, mocking God, and God will get you for that – real good. You can’t just go out and do anything you want. He doesn’t like that, smiles in a rueful and condescending way, and a knocks you down. The second translation above captures it best – don’t mess with the Big Guy. Actions have consequences. Do what you should, not what you want.
This is not deep – just a warning – although in a modern version, the Rolling Stones, completely secular and not agrarian at all, are more optimistic –
You can’t always get what you want,
But if you try sometime, yeah,
You just might find you get what you need!
The idea seems to be that all things work out for the best, even if you don’t like it much.
And that brings us to the Republicans. No, really. It has to do with the Mike Huckabee surge. In the exact middle of December he was on a roll, leading in some polls, rising fast in all the others. This wasn’t supposed to happen – this somewhat goofily optimistic Baptist minister was supposed to be the novelty candidate, a sop thrown to the born-again evangelicals that are a key party bloc. It was to business as usual – say the right things, with fervor, promise this and that, then do what you want. Keep them hoping. That’s good enough to secure their votes. And if you sense they’re wavering whisper the two words of fear in their ear – Hillary Clinton.
But now, for all the crazy things he says, and his woefully simple-minded views on international matters, he could be the Republican who runs for president in 2008 – and he’s hired Ronald Reagan’s ex-campaign manager. This wasn’t supposed to happen. But the Republican Party sowed the seeds – seeking out the evangelicals, the creationist anti-science crowd, the “values voters” out to rid the world of gay folk, of feminists who hold that women should make decisions about their own bodies, of people who talk funny and sneaked across the border to find work, and those who worship their God the wrong way and call him Allah and don’t like us. The crop just came in.
Some solid Republicans are aghast. One is Peggy Noonan, profiled here in July, who is religious, but not, as she would perhaps say, a nut case. As for the basics, Peggy Noonan (born Margaret Ellen Noonan on September 7, 1950 in Brooklyn, New York) was a Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan, a political conservative – not much of a neoconservative, although she gave them the benefit of the doubt for a time. She’s one of those old-fashioned conservatives. During 1984, when she was a speechwriter for Reagan, she wrote his “Boys of Point Du Hoc” speech for the fortieth anniversary of D-Day, and wrote Reagan’s address to the nation after the Challenger explosion, the one quoting John Magee – they “slipped the surly bonds of earth … and touched the face of God.” That’s vaguely religious. Later on, for this president’s father – the “prudent” Bush – she was the one who came up with phrase “a kinder, gentler nation” and that business about “a thousand points of light.” She also came up with “Read my lips: no new taxes” – but everyone has a bad day now and then.
As mentioned back in July, she’s a nice looking woman, if sometime a little goofy, as in “magic dolphins from God” item in The Wall Street Journal on April 24, 2000, regarding that little Cuban boy we sent back to his father –
From the beginning it was a story marked by the miraculous. It was a miracle a six-year-old boy survived the storm at sea and floated safely in an inner tube for two days and nights toward shore; a miracle that when he tired and began to slip, the dolphins who surrounded him like a contingent of angels pushed him upward…
Was she serious? No one knew. Maybe she was just being “poetic.”
But now we know. She is worried about the Huckabee thing –
The Republican race looks – at the moment – to be determined primarily by one thing, the question of religious faith. In my lifetime faith has been a significant issue in presidential politics, but not the sole determinative one. Is that changing? If it is, it is not progress.
Mike Huckabee is in the lead due, it appears, to voter approval of the depth and sincerity of his religious beliefs as lived out in his ministry as an ordained Southern Baptist. He flashes “Christian leader” over his picture in commercials; he asserts his faith is “mainstream”; his surrogates speak of Mormonism as “strange” and “definitely a factor.” Mr. Huckabee said this summer that a candidate’s faith is “subject to question,” “part of the game.”
The woman of “God’s Magic Dolphins” goes on to say that should not be part of the game, as least not a determinative part of the game. Yeah, but she brought up the damned dolphins – or the sacred ones, actually. Now she says she was just kidding? Not exactly – but bring God into things political and people don’t know when you’re kidding, or being fanciful, or metaphoric, or whatever that was. Imply that God is on your side and no one else’s, and imply it often enough, and people start to say it outright.
Over at the National Review, Charles Krauthammer, former psychiatrist and now the “thinker” for the Cheney neoconservative crowd, has the same problem –
This campaign is knee-deep in religion, and it’s only going to get worse. I’d thought that the limits of professed public piety had already been achieved during the Republican CNN/YouTube debate when some squirrelly looking guy held up a Bible and asked, “Do you believe every word of this book?” – and not one candidate dared reply: None of your damn business.
He thinks one’s religion should be private matter? That’s no way to keep the evangelical flock in the fold, speaking in the agrarian manner of the Bible. It may be too late to say such things.
Enter that acerbic wag from Vanity Fair, James Wolcott, with The Revenge of the Magic Dolphins. You don’t want to find yourself in his crosshairs.
He reminds us that back in 2000, when Noonan endorsed George Bush for president, “his muscular Christianity reduced her to rhetorical mush” –
George Bush is a compassionate conservative. He sees the needs other, older conservatives did not always see, or did not always think they must or could address. But he applies conservative solutions to these needs: more freedom, more choice, the inclusion in the public sphere of faith-based approaches. All the money in the world, he knows, cannot and will not turn around a troubled child’s heart. But God can, and his workers are eager. Bush does not fear faith as an opposing power center to the state. He likes it as an opposing power center to the state. After all, faith freed Poland; perhaps it can free a tough 16-year-old in inner-city Detroit too.
She was playing with fire, but as a good Catholic perhaps one can forgive her – or not. The problem, as Wolcott notes, is that she got what she wanted –
This doesn’t sound so very different to me than the compassionate conservativism Mike Huckabee is espousing, as when he rebuked Mitt Romney over wanting to deny college aid to children of illegal immigrants. But now that Mike Huckabee has flapped his arms and scattered the pigeons, jeopardizing the candidacies of expensive empty suits such as Romney and Fred Thompson, not to mention Giuliani’s big-state game plan, the media’s collective bobblehead brain trust has rediscovered the virtues of secular firewalls and tucking faith in the vest pocket rather than draping yourself in velvet yards of it.
And “the media’s collective bobblehead brain trust” cannot escape what they have sown here –
For the last seven years we’ve been subjected to hero-worshipping prose about Bush’s faith and fortitude and his appealing to a “higher father” for guidance and succor, and saintly photographs of the presidential seal forming a golden halo around Bush’s warrior profile (Lucianne.com loved running such jawline porn). And for longer than seven years, Democrats have been caricatured and reviled as the party that harbors hostility and sneery condescension towards people of faith and established religion, a godless sect barely indisguishable from a postmodern pagan cult. As liberal Democrats were being pounded from the right, concern trolls in the squishy center knitted their brows about the widening “faith gap” between Repubs and Dems and called for a restoration of religion in the fabled “public square” that doesn’t really exist anywhere but inside the minds of journalistic deacons such as Jon Meacham and similar platitude mongers.
And there was plenty of that condescending and wholly unsolicited advice from the kind folks on the right, like this from Fox News’ Mort Kondracke (Wolcott calls him “that bubblegum dispenser and aluminum-sided Beltway Boy”) –
My post-election advice to Democrats is: Go to church. Don’t go to “get religion,” although it might be good for your soul. Just go, in the first instance, to “get” religion, i.e. understand what goes on in the heads and hearts of those who devoutly believe in God and how it affects their views of the world. It will help you politically.
I have the distinct impression that many secular Democrats believe that hidden away in most Evangelical Protestant churches is a secret room filled with white Klan sheets or maybe even Swastika armbands.
I have the distinct impression that he probably received that “distinct impression” from his Beltway Boy sidekick Fred Barnes, who in turn probably dug it out of his ass or plucked it out of thin air or whatever it is he does when not scribbling notes to himself on the set of Fox News as the other pundits are speaking.
But now Krauthammer is even disagreeing with Romney about those abandoned cathedrals in Europe –
He spoke of the empty cathedrals in Europe. He’s right about that: Postwar Europe has experienced the most precipitous decline in religious belief in the history of the West. Yet Europe is one of the freest precincts on the planet. It is an open, vibrant, tolerant community of more than two dozen disparate nations living in a pan-continental harmony and freedom unseen in all previous European history.
Krauthammer’s career would have ended had he written those words a year earlier –
There was a certain smugness in being able to count on the evangelical wing voting Republican and being sewn up as part of the permanent Rovian majority. But now the permanent Republican majority is a leaking sandbag and the front runner status of a Mormon or thrice-married Catholic threatens to incur the resentment of evangelicals, who don’t enjoy feeling they’re just allowed to be along for the ride as long as they don’t dictate the parade route.
Yes, historian Richard Brookhiser at the National Review recognizes that all this is, for the Republicans, a self-inflicted folly. But you do reap what you sow –
This is what happens when purity tests and theological thumb-wrestling take hold in the political process. Conservatives wanted to cram religion down everyone’s throats when they thought it was to their advantage and now they’re the ones gagging. For Peggy Noonan, the Magic Dolphin lady herself, who rhapsodized after 9/11 that God was back, for her to lament “that faith has been heightened as a determining factor in how to vote, that such things as executive ability, professional history, temperament, character, political philosophy and professed stands are secondary, tertiary” is a jewel of irony worthy of a gift box.
And there’s the man who left the Bush cheerleading squad recently, John Cole, with this –
I simply cannot tell you how much I am enjoying this. The GOP has been pandering to these stupid bastards for years, and every time I pointed it out I was called “anti-Christian” or something or other. Those of us who saw what the party was becoming were told to shut up, that it was good politics.
Enjoy your new GOP, folks. And here is something else to think about – are the evangelicals going to support Romney or Giuliani if you do manage to trash Huckabee enough to secure the nomination for them? Will the eye for an eye crowd learn to forgive and forget? Have fun!
It won’t be fun, and beyond Wolcott, Duncan Black, on the left, wonders about this new conservative loathing of Mike Huckabee –
I understand why the Villagers are freaked by Huckabee, but I don’t understand why all of the idiot conservative bloggers are freaking out too. They’re using the kind of language to describe the religious right that I steer clear of personally.
The “villagers” here are the mainstream columnists, the bloggers the amateurs. But they’re all unglued about Huckabee.
Kevin Drum at the Washington Monthly offers a socioeconomic analysis of the discomfort with Huckabee –
There are a variety of ostensible reasons for this: lack of foreign policy bona fides, too compassionate for their taste, too willing to consider spending money, etc.
But I think the real reason is simpler – as with blogosphere conservatives, mainstream conservatives are mostly urban sophisticates with a libertarian bent, not rural evangelicals with a social conservative bent. They’re happy to talk up NASCAR and pickup trucks in public, but in real life they mostly couldn’t care less about either.
Ditto for opposing abortion and the odd bit of gay bashing via proxy. But when it comes to Ten Commandments monuments and end times eschatology, they shiver inside just like any mainstream liberal. The only difference is that usually they keep their shivering to themselves because they want to keep everyone in the big tent happy.
But they got Huckabee and the game is over –
He’s the real deal. Not a guy like George Bush or Ronald Reagan, who talks a soothing game to the snake handlers but then turns around and spends his actual political capital on tax cuts, foreign wars, and deregulating big corporations. Huckabee, it turns out, isn’t just giving lip service to evangelicals, he actually believes all that stuff. Among other things, he believes in creationism (really believes), once proposed that AIDS patients should be quarantined, appears to share the traditional evangelical view that Mormonism is a cult, and says (in public!) that homosexuality is sinful. And that’s without seeing the text of any of his old sermons, which he (probably wisely) refuses to let the press lay eyes on.
The mainstream urban conservatives are every bit as put off as the mainstream urban liberals – “They’re afraid that this time, it’s not just a line of patter to keep the yokels in line.”
Well, you can’t always get what you want, but you just might find you get what you need! There is something most everyone can agree on – you can never make a fool out of God, especially a political fool. He really doesn’t like that. And maybe He intervened here. He might do irony. You never know.