Sunday, August 06, 2006


Star Tribune columnist Nick Coleman is praising a certain evangelical minister. In this column, he lauds Pastor Gregory Boyd of Woodland Hills Church in Maplewood, Minnesota. Boyd has preached against what he sees as the "alignment of Christian conservatives with the right-wing political agenda." Coleman applauds Boyd's criticism of the "growing political involvement of believers."

I have not read Boyd's book, but the Star Tribune column and the New York Times article it references (AOL reprint here) fails to answer the question of whether churches were wrong to participate in the civil rights movement or the fight against slavery.

Of course, someone will counter that the War on Terrorism is not the same as the abolition of slavery. And Gregory Boyd is no Martin Luther King, Jr. But we can talk further about this issue on SwanBlog after I read the book.

This leads to a larger point about comparisons. By bringing up slavery, have I equated the Taliban and the Baathists with slaveowners? Or have I merely pointed out a flaw in the sweeping generalization presented by Boyd and Coleman?

Let's assume that someone asserts that the reason that Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. is a hero is that he went to jail for his beliefs. If a second person points out that the Ayatollah Khomeini also went to jail for his beliefs, does that mean that the second person has likened MLK to a ruthless dictator? Actually, the second person would be saying quite the opposite. When your standard for heroism is so imprecise, then polar opposites like MLK and Khomeini are caught up in the same category. So you had better refine your definition of heroism.

Remember Sen. Lloyd Bentsen's famous "Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy" line? Again, that was billed as a "comparison" by then-Senator Quayle to the 35th president. Perhaps Quayle could have responded that Bentsen had proved his point. When you look only at age and years in Congress, then people who are as different as President Kennedy and Vice President Quayle look exactly the same. So we must evaluate candidates using other criteria.

OK. So my advice on the 1988 Vice Presidential Debate is a little late in coming. If only they had asked me back then.