Check out Jonah Goldberg‘s piece at The National Review. He describes court evangelical Jerry Falwell Jr. as a “right-wing version of the original progressive’s habit of tailoring their arguments to wherever the field was open.”
The original progressives tailored their arguments to wherever the field was open. When expanding the franchise would empower progressives, they were for it. When they held the executive branch, they argued all power should be vested there. When they held the legislative, ditto. The courts, ditto. Oliver Wendell Holmes is famous for advancing the doctrine of “judicial restraint,” but I’ve always believed he took this position in large part because he understood that progressives had the whip hand in Congress and the White House. When advancing progressive ends required judicial activism — as in Buck v. Bell — Holmes was more than happy to legislate from the bench, on the lofty constitutional principle that “three generations of imbeciles is enough.” Judicial restraint was just a way of clearing the field for his team to move the ball downfield.
It seems to me that the religious politics of people like Falwell is simply a right-wing version of this approach — but instead of it being adorned with political and philosophical jargon, it’s full of religious bumper stickers. It’s just another variety of what was once called “priestcraft” by diverse thinkers such as James Harrington, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Thomas Paine. It’s the practice of using one’s religious authority to gain personal or political power.
Read the entire piece here.