August 31, 2004


Born-again vs. perfect (Marvin Olasky, August 26, 2004, Townhall)

John Kerry graduated from Yale in 1966. George Bush graduated in 1968. I graduated from said institution in 1971. With the Kerry campaign in full panic mode about the swift boat charges, maybe I can provide some perspective on the environment that has led to the current confusion. [...]

Neither Kerry nor Bush nor I wanted to fight in Vietnam, and we all did what we could in our situations: Naval Reserves (Kerry), Texas Air National Guard (Bush), draft lottery No. 278 (me), which meant immunity from having to serve. In his circumstances, Kerry's choice was smart: Navy or Coast Guard folks were much less likely to see combat service than their counterparts in the Army or Air Force, and the safest Navy spot may have been that of a Naval Reserve officer. [...]

My point, having lived through the 1960s-1970s confusion, is that the era was not one of uncommon resolution, at least not of the patriotic variety. I relished my high draft lottery number. George W. Bush played it smart like John Kerry and found a soft gig. He and I took different rotten paths -- he drank heavily, I became a communist -- but both of us could say the same thing: "When I was young and irresponsible, I was young and irresponsible."

The other thing both of us can and do say is that we did not save ourselves: God alone saves sinners (and I can surely add, of whom I was the worst). Being born again, we don't have to justify ourselves. Being saved, we don't have to be saviors.

John Kerry, once-born, has no such spiritual support, nor do most of his top admirers in the heavily secularized Democratic Party. It would be great if he could say: "I was young and vainglorious and often self-absorbed. I exaggerated and lied at times, and since then have thought it necessary not to disavow the fantasies I wove. But I do deserve credit for being there and serving my country in a mixed-up era in which I at times was also mixed-up."

Kerry can't say that because he evidently does not believe that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

The belief in the perfectibility of human beings is at the core of the Left's politics and is the source of their disastrous belief that the State can be used to hammer us lumps of clay into idealized shapes (see the kibbutz story below). That is, of course, antithetical to the Founding principles of our nation.

More surprising though than the dissent from those principles would be a belief that you yourself are unflawed. The Senator's inability to admit error even as he flip-flops leaves him open to such an interpretation. He's going to have to apologize for at least his Senate testimony if not his opposition to Vietnam entirely if he's going to get out from under the storyline, but he's left it until far too late in his career to do so--the middle of a presidential campaign--and may be incapable of it even now.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 31, 2004 12:10 PM

So how to account for the "holier than thou" strain so common among religionists?

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at August 31, 2004 12:14 PM

"John Kerry, once-born, has no such spiritual support, nor do most of his top admirers in the heavily secularized Democratic Party."

Not to defend Kerry or the Democrats, but that has to be one of the most sweeping generalizations I have ever heard. If believing that you are born again provides you with spiritual support, great. Don't think that it makes you unique among all people in this regard.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at August 31, 2004 12:45 PM

Jeff: Christians are called on to be "humbler than thou". Unfortunately, they're still humans. As such, even with God's help, we fall short on the proper execution of portraying that attitude. Even when we know better.

If he's a believer, Kerry's challenge in that area is no different. However, if he's above it and needs no forgiveness, he lacks humanity and not many of us can relate to that.

Posted by: John Resnick at August 31, 2004 12:55 PM


They are holier than you.

Posted by: oj at August 31, 2004 1:19 PM


Not unique but obviously different than the secular.

Posted by: oj at August 31, 2004 1:25 PM

--So how to account for the "holier than thou" strain so common among religionists?--

Which is also found amongst those who believe in secularism.

Posted by: Sandy P at August 31, 2004 2:42 PM

Michael Moore and the AP guy with his abortion advise are nothing if not humble, self-effacing, tolerant of those who might disagree. Holier-than-thou? They can't be. They're secular, rationalists. Jeff, Harry, this fixation with anyone who might describe or think of themselves as religious or spiritual and the bad comparisons with the holders to the high faith of reason on which you rely is getting played, tired to the point of caricature.

Posted by: Tom C, Stamford,Ct. at August 31, 2004 3:41 PM

I have no respect for the phony religion of Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson, but I don't accuse them of being atheists as does the author of that piece as against Kerry. To say that someone is "once-born" is not just to disagree with how they practice their faith but to claim that they have no faith at all. I find that stunningly arrogant on Olasky's part.

Posted by: Joel Thomas at August 31, 2004 5:47 PM