- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 21, 2004

There’s a new bigotry in town. It comes equipped with an epithet or two — “religious right” is the favorite term now — and will no doubt soon produce something equivalent to the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

These supposed “Protocols,” actually a fraudulent tool of anti-Semites, come to us from the late 19th century. They falsely purport to be documents drawn up by Jews plotting to rule something pretty big: the world. Even though revealed early on to be phony, the “Protocols” have been used over the years — even to this day — to persuade people Judaism is an enemy force threatening their way of life.

The early-21st-century documents, which no doubt will be discovered any minute now, will be called the “Protocols of the Evangelicals of America” and will outline a scheme for zealous, biblically serious Christians to impose a theocracy on the United States.

The forgeries will name President Bush as a chief conspirator and will contend his re-election was achieved principally through the devices of the evangelicals themselves. In not too many more years, America will have a state religion and our freedoms will have fled, the freshly found “Protocols” will promise.

In scouting for material to help frame the fake documents, the authors will turn to the writings of clever columnists, the work of scholars, even the imaginings of a novelist. They might start with Maureen Dowd of the New York Times, who wrote that the Bush presidency was “confusing church with state” and replacing “facts with faith,” ushering us into “another dark age, more creationist than cutting edge.”

“The new evangelicals,” she said, “challenge science because they’ve been stirred up to object to social engineering on behalf of society’s most vulnerable: the poor, the sick, the sexually different.”

The authors might then pick up a thought or two from Gary Wills, an adjunct professor at Northwestern University and journalist of endless words, some of which found their way into a recent New York Times op-ed piece. According to him, America now resembles “the secular states of modern Europe” less “than we do our putative enemies,” and in case you missed his meaning, he later predicted “the moral zealots” will give us a jihad. The heritage of the Enlightenment is being crushed by fundamentalists, he said.

Susan Jacoby, who wrote a book on secularism, might also assist the “Protocol” authors with her observation in Newsday that “a large percentage of the born-again, more-than-weekly churchgoers are fundamentalists who believe that the Bible should dictate public policy.”

Jane Smiley, a novelist, would agree, and provides the “Protocols” authors with fodder in a piece on the online magazine Slate. “Here is how ignorance works: First, they put the fear of God into you — if you don’t believe in the literal word of the Bible, you will burn in hell,” she writes. “Of course, the literal word of the Bible is tremendously contradictory, and so you must abdicate all critical thinking.”

The hope has to be that when the “Protocols of Evangelicals” makes its appearance, someone will quickly turn up to reveal its falsities. Our hero might observe, for instance, that there are indeed some people here and there like the descriptions offered up above, but that the heart of prejudice is to assume everyone in a group shares those characteristics.

Evangelicals, for instance, can be liberal and they can be conservative, and even the conservatives are not all of one mind about political issues, although most certainly believe in assisting the poor and probably none wants a theocracy.

Biblical literalists? They are not a huge percentage of Americans and they are not ipso facto ninnies, the researcher might observe. If he should knock on my door for an observation or two, I would tell him about several current friends who could be described as literalists on such matters as the virgin birth of Christ and who are also extremely well-read and sophisticated and have advanced degrees.

Careful students of the presidential election have already made clear it wasn’t conservative Christians who carried the day for President Bush. The researcher can learn from them that the major factors included such issues as who would keep the American people safer from terrorism.

But exposed or not, the “Protocols of Evangelicals” may not go away — just look at the “Jesusland” map on the Internet for evidence or one Web-site rant sparing no exaggeration or four-letter words in its denunciation of Christians and the South.

Look for the “Protocols of Evangelicals” in your bookstore soon.

Jay Ambrose is director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard Newspapers.

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