The "We Love Jesus!" bunch was here last week, 200,000 of them, swarming over the federal greensward, urging us to "repent or perish," crying, "We didn't come here to disco, we came to pray for America," and praising the Lord for the cops -- some of whom joined the fervent multitudes in waving their arms heavenward. They were friendly, displayed no vices and left a good impression.
All right. I am unqualified to throw in with this lot. Dripping with sin as I am, I would be mortified if I stood among them. But I must take part in the dispute between these hyped-up charismatics and the liberal peck-sniffs who denounced them as right-wing fanatics and virtual agents of the devil.
"I find the march borders on manipulation," intoned the Rev. David Eaton, a Unitarian divine. "Many of the organizers have political track records that are not only conservative but almost reactionary."
Another critic claimed that "the marriage of the right wing and the church surely wasn't made in heaven." Another huffed that if God saw those 200,000, he would probably say, "Thank God I am not a Christian." s
Naturally, the fussbudgets of the National Council of Churches and 20 other mainline religious groups, including the Union of Hebrew Congregations and the American Baptist Churches of the U.S.A., denounced the "Washington for Jesus" rally as "political."
What these pharisees of liberal propriety were really saying was, "We don't like what these charismatics say because their politics don't conform with ours." Their liberal partners of the National Association of Social Workers also denounced "Washington for Jesus" day as a "New Far Right" enterprise that must be fought by every good social worker in the Republic.
Well, what are the Christian charismatics saying that bothers the priggish mainliners? They are saying that abortion, homosexuality, the super welfare state, government-run child care and the Equal Rights Amendment are wrong, and that people must straighten out their own lives and live by God's laws.
Whatever the merits of such convictions, these fundamentalists, who home toward tents, ecstatic shouting and body movements that could get some of them jobs in topless bars, deserve the right to express them. If the convictions have political ramifications, so what? That's what the American political system is about, isn't it, giving people a place to express their views and feelings?
Now I wouldn't enter this fray if it weren't for the utter hypocrisy of the ecclesiastical liberals who publicly wail that the fundamentalists might be diddling with politics, an area they feel is reserved exclusively for liberals.
After all, holy liberals organized "The Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights." The National Council of Churches supports gay rights legislation in Congress, and has been an apologist for nearly every radical Third World guerrilla operation going. Social activism is an article of the council's faith.
"Sojourners," the publication of the liberal and anti-military "People's Christian Coalition," regularly scores the likes of the Rev. Jerry Falwell ("far right spokesman"), the American Conservative Union and the Moral Majority as pariahs of our system.
The same publication was pleased that Roman Catholic Bishop Francis F. Reh of Saginaw, Mich., ordered schoolchildren in his diocese not to participate in a state art contest sponsored by the U.S. Navy, which "Sojourners" said was out to promote the newest Trident submarine, the USS Michigan. Egad.
And so it goes. The righteous of the liberal and conservative sides, whether they are divines or sin-stained devils, are very likely to sidle up to, or plunge into, politics. It is the nature of the fallen creature.
For the press to swallow the liberal line, however, that only the fundamentalist brethren we saw doing their Jesus numbers here last week are politicized, reflects an ignorance of how conviction fires action.
How narrow-minded the liberal ecclesiastics and denominations were in denouncing the fundamentalists for doing the very thing -- politics -- that the liberals thrive on.
It's enough to drive a man to the nearest saloon.