Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Evangelical Scandal You're Not Hearing About (Part 1)

World Magazine has been doing some great reporting on evangelical leaders tied into the Tom Delay-Jack Abramoff money-for-influence story. My reading of the story as reported by World is that Abramoff was representing Indian tribes that operate casinos in Louisiana and Mississippe. When other tribes tried to advance legislation that would permit to open their own casinos in Alabama and Louisiana, Abramoff gave money from the casino interests to Ralph Reed and others to fight such legislation.

Reed took that money and spread it around, trying to gin up evangelical opposition. Reed was "fighting gambling," but he was doint so on behalf of gambling interests, and he never told anyone that he was being paid by a them. Reed also worked to persuade James Dobson to rally his radio audience and mailing list for the cause. The basic characters in the story are Abramoff as the puppet-master, Reed as the pawn, Dobson as the dupe (which he denies), and evangelical footsoldiers as the brainless drones, easily manipulated by evangelical personalities.

Here are links to World's major articles: 11/19, 1/14, 2/4, 3/4, 3/11, 3/25.

Also worth reading are the ridiculously weak and narrow response from Ralph Reed (who has repeatedly denied interview requests and completely ignores the central issues in this letter) and Marvin Olasky's explanation for why this story needs to be reported. The fact that he would have to explain is appalling to me, but it should not be surprising given how the sole unifying feature of evangelicalism seems to be a desire to squelch anything that would serve as an obstacle to blind unity among churches. That World would lose subscribers over reporting this story (as Olasky implies in his sidebar to the 3/4 article) is almost beyond comprehension.

Part 2 will review some perspectives on the backgrounds of the strange bedfellowship made by fundamentalist-evangelicals and politicians.


Robert said...

One big problem is that Dobson and all his evan-jelly-cal friends are now the court prophets for the Republican Party. They are teatd the same way blacks are treated by the Democratic Party-"vote for us every four years, don't ask too many questions, and maybe we'll throw you a bone every now and then".

Ben said...


You make an excellent point, and one to which I may allude in Part 2. Last month I went to a seminar on the future of conservatism at Regent University. One of the speakers (I think it was Lawler) documented your point—how the Republican Party has done very little that is quantifiable for family values, but has instead served business interests almost exclusively.