NOTE: This post was originally published at princetonalumniweekly.blogspot.com/
Hart critiques ‘crusader mentality’
Religious revivals have been common in the United States, former Sen. Gary Hart told an audience in Dodds Auditorium March 6, but except for Prohibition, no revival has been as politicized as the one that has taken place in the last 15 to 20 years. Hart, a Colorado Democrat and onetime presidential candidate, delivered a tough critique of the influence of the religious right on the Republican Party. He said that it represents a threat to separation of church and state, has co-opted dissent, and “flies in the face of the very basic principles” this country has operated under for 220 years.
Hart’s topic was “God and Caesar in America,” taken from the title of a 96-page essay he published in 2005. Hart said a blending of evangelical Protestant fundamentalists and political neo-conservatives resulted in a strong intensity of belief and “a position of political superiority.” This has had consequences both domestically and in foreign policy, Hart said, where it has led to “a crusader mentality, an avenging angel mentality” and the threat of creating “a religious empire.” Until recently, Hart said, he was afraid that the religious right’s ascendance was “a permanent change.” But the results of the November election and the collapse of support for the war in Iraq show that “America is beginning to wake up,” he said.