Schenck is so well-wired that he got a personal sit-down with Miers during the long, humiliating process of trying to sell her to the American al Qaeda. As Roddy tells it: “Rev. Schenck asked her about her faith, her prayer habits, her beliefs in whether God directly intervenes in this world. ‘We…talked about the importance of her knowing the will of God for her life, for the court, for the nation. She said that was of utmost importance to her.'”

Schenck came away satisfied that Miers, like her boss, heard voices in her head that told her what to do – the only criteria for public service these days. But then, Roddy notes, the prudent Schenck did some further digging (no doubt at the urging of the divine breath coursing through his synapses), and found out that Miers attended a Washington church that had – gasp! – once hosted a gay clergyman and received a monk from a monastery that had once held a retreat for gay Christians! Obviously, she had been infected with the homosexual cooties left behind by these wicked spawns of Satan.

But even worse, the church is Episcopalian – cursed anathema to the Church of Christ, the denomination of Miers’ home church in Texas and, evidently, of the Rev. Crank – sorry, Schenck – as well. Roddy puts it well: “While consorting with Episcopalians is not officially a crime in the court of the religious right, it was enough to worry Rev. Schenck and many associates. Word, he said, spread quickly through the evangelical right that Harriet Miers was suspect on religious grounds. ‘The Church of Christ is very exclusive,’ [said Schenck]. ‘When you move from place to place you search out the nearest Church of Christ and there happened to be one in Bethesda, right up the road from the White House,” Rev. Schenck said.” Yet Miers cast her lot with the Episcopalians, who as everyone knows are the next thing to godless, Whore-of-Babylon Papists.

After noting that Schenck is an habitué of White House prayer breakfasts and was a featured player at the 2004 Republican convention, Roddy sums up: “It is strange to think about how attendance at the ‘wrong’ church suddenly became the tip-off that someone’s religious bona fides were sufficiently in doubt to deny her a place on a court established to rule on secular law. But it has reached that point.”

It has indeed reached that point, but it is not, perhaps, so strange. Those of us raised in small towns in the Bible Belt know well the kind of dynamic that Roddy describes here: the vicious back-biting among “good Christians” against people who go to the “wrong church.” I still recall the heartbreak when the girl I wanted to marry told me that we could never wed, because she belonged to the Church of Christ while I, as a Baptist, was going straight to hell. (Actually, the C of C believed that everyone else was going to hell, but the Baptists were going quicker and straighter than all the rest – perhaps because the C of C began as a splinter group from the, er, Baptists.) Of course, my intended and I were only five years old at the time, so perhaps it’s just as well that our marriage plans were thwarted. But this silly episode is an example of how early and how thoroughly sectarian rancor can spread its poison.

As Roddy notes, the Republicans began injecting this petty spite and wilful ignorance into national politics years ago, in a cynical ploy to harness the energies unleashed by religious extremism to serve their own secular political ends. Now Bush has brought these extremists into the very center of power and put them in charge of social policy, where they have been responsible for, among other things, the deaths of tens of thousands of vulnerable women and children by gutting American contributions to clinics and reproductive health centers around the world. People like Schenck can sound like a joke to those who know little of the dark passions that roil the Heartland; but what these fake Christians are doing to the country, to American society – and indeed to Christianity itself – is no joke.

The fact that these vicious cranks turned on Bush over Miers is a delicious irony; the fact that they had the actual power to bring her down is gall and wormwood to anyone who cares about the health of the Republic. Like so much else with this nightmarish administration, the Miers fiasco is a lose-lose proposition. 

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