Dumbest. Statement. Ever.

Chris Matthews, from last night’s Hardball. His guest was talk radio host Racheal Maddow.

MADDOW: Well, it’s two sides of the same coin, as far as I can tell. And the real substantive story here is that almost all of the Republican candidates have argued against the separation of church and state, have argued for it to be less, have argued that it’s been overdone, that there ought to be more religion in the public sphere and that candidates’ religion ought not to be just seen as a private matter, which is what Kennedy argued in 1960.

Once you cross that line, one you say that religion ought to be a public matter, yes, you’re going to get ugly attacks on one another’s religions, particularly if you’ve got minority religion candidates in the race. This is what–this is what American politics look like if you get rid of the separation of church and state. I feel like this is a civics lesson for all of us.

MATTHEWS: OK. Matt–I guess we’ve never really had full separation because the Civil Rights movement was led by ministers, wasn’t it.

Wow. Next he’ll be asking, “If humans evolved from apes, why do we still have apes?”

Consider: That’s Chris Matthews. Former Peace Corps volunteer. He worked for Jimmy Carter and Tip O’Neill. A journalist for over twenty years. A man who’s been steeped in politics for most of his adult life. And yet he seems to believe in all seriousness that religious leaders being active in a social movement has anything to do with the separation of church and state. Or at least he is willing to pretend to believe that to pander to his right-wing viewers. Just incredible.

Even more remarkable is the context. Maddow said what you would hope would be the opinion of sane Americans everywhere. That it’s a bad thing when Presidential candidates make religious faith a major issue in a campaign, either as a positive or a negative, and that if you dislike it when people are attacked for their religious beliefs you should also dislike it when those same people deliberately make their faith the issue. And this was the moment Matthews decided to get surly and truculent.

But it was about to get worse. After Matthews and his simpering, empty-headed other guest (Matt Continetti from The Weekly Standard) got through giving Maddow a hard time about “In God we Trust” on the currency, “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, and whether we should have a Congressional chaplain, we got this:

MADDOW: If that’s all they were fighting for, then there wouldn’t be controversy about Mitt Romney saying, for example, that he wouldn’t put a Muslim in his cabinet. There wouldn’t be controversy about the Republican candidates calling America a Christian nation. That’s the kinds of issues that are substantively what we’re fighting about. Whether or not “In God we trust”…

MATTHEWS: Who did that? Who did that?

MADDOW: … is on the money is a side issue.

MATTHEWS: Rachel, who said we’re a Christian nation?

MADDOW: Almost every Republican candidate has made that claim at one point or another. I mean, Romney’s argument centrally in his big speech on religion was that “Freedom requires religion,” and that…

MATTHEWS: Did he say we’re a Christian nation? I think you’re wrong.

MADDOW: He didn’t say we’re a Christian nation in that speech…

MATTHEWS: Did anybody say that? Did anybody say we’re a Christian nation in this whole campaign?

MADDOW: In this campaign–that’s a mainstream claim by Republican politicians. I can’t believe…

MATTHEWS: No, I’m just asking…

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You said–you just said that they say this. I want you to give an example of one who did.

MADDOW: Well…

MATTHEWS: Name one Republican in this race for president who’s called this a Christian nation.

CONTINETTI: I’ll give an example. John McCain said we have Judeo-Christian heritage…

MADDOW: But that’s different.

CONTINETTI: … which is different, absolutely, from what–the kind of thing that Rachel is saying. It’s a different idea to express American heritage…

Ahem. John McCain did say that America was a Christian nation:

A recent poll found that 55 percent of Americans believe the U.S. Constitution establishes a Christian nation. What do you think?

I would probably have to say yes, that the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation. But I say that in the broadest sense. The lady that holds her lamp beside the golden door doesn’t say, “I only welcome Christians.” We welcome the poor, the tired, the huddled masses. But when they come here they know that they are in a nation founded on Christian principles.

Fred Thompson later chimed in with this:

Speaking to reporters after the event, Thompson defended rival McCain’s statement that the United States is a Christian nation. “Factually, the Judeo-Christian heritage of the United States is certainly a fact. I don’t know what he said past that. But I think that is in fact the fact.”

Matthews, of course, would not have a problem with that. He didn’t actually say “America is a Christian nation.” Certainly not. He preferred instead to use code about the nation’s heritage. That allows Matthews to play the fool on the Republicans’ behalf.

Broadening our scope a bit, here’s Iowa Republican representative Steve King weighing in on the subject:

I recognized that we’re a Christian nation founded on Christian principles, and we’re coming up to Christmastime. … It’s time we stood up and said so, and said to the rest of America, Be who you are and be confident. And let’s worship Christ and let’s celebrate Christmas for the right reasons.

The Texas Republican Party had it as part of its 2004 platform that America was a Christian nation. And that’s just what I found in five minutes of Googling. And that’s limiting ourselves specifically to the phrase “Christian nation.” Somehow I think that Mike Hucakebee saying as recently as 1998 that he wants to reclaim America for Christ, or Mitt Romney decrying secularism and coming as close as he possibly could to saying that atheists are not true Americans without actually saying it are very much in the spirit of Maddow’s comments. They are, indeed, common sentiments among Republicans, but Matthews and his brain-dead right-wing guest were perfectly happy to pretend otherwise and berate Maddow with their condescension and ignorance.

It’s impossible to watch something like this and still take seriously the folks who think Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are what’s wrong with the religious conversation in this country.

Comments

  1. #1 Explicit Atheist
    December 13, 2007

    Yes, the major media outlets are consistently biased against any suggestion that there is any substance to any assertions that there is an establishment of Christian compatible monotheism problem or a problem with an inferior civic standing for atheists due to pervasive popular prejudice backed by government actions.

  2. #2 Chris Bell
    December 13, 2007

    Matthews mentioned “under God” in the pledge and “In God we trust” on the coins. I’ve been blogging about this for a little while now, but we should be prepared. Challenges to both of those phrases are currently pending in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (right below the Supreme Court). The Ninth Circuit is probably going to rule the phrases unconstitutional soon after the primaries are done, and the Supreme Court will announce its decision to hear the appeals around the same time as the general election.

    Predictable chaos will ensue.

  3. #3 Valhar2000
    December 14, 2007

    No matter, since the federal government is now allowed to finance fundies with no oversight, the kooks will soon get around those small obstacles.

  4. #4 PI Guy
    December 14, 2007

    I saw this and, like you, was stunned by Matthews’ responses to Maddow.

    And I agree with her. This isn’t about “In God We Trust” and “One Nation, Under God”. Those are just indicators that the greater population here in the US doesn’t have any idea what the Constitution says, what the Founding Fathers thought, and and whether or not this is a “Christian Nation” just because Xians are in the majority. It’s about how the government has more and more routinely condoned – if not encouraged – the social and political marginalization of non-Xians. Now THAT’S as un-Constitutional as things can get.

    I’ll wager that if someone claimed that we live in a “White Nation” – from a race/ethnicity standpoint, Caucasians comprise the majority – it would cause Rodney King-like riots. And rightly so. It’s no more ludicrous than the “Christian Nation” claim.

  5. #5 Dave Briggs
    December 14, 2007

    Commentary on the endless dispute between evolution and creationism.

    Wow. Next he’ll be asking, ôIf humans evolved from apes, why do we still have apes?ö

    I am a Christian who believes in evolution. Is that an oxymoron? No, I don’t think so. I don’t believe that mankind evolved from primordial slime up to man, but with 4.5 billion years to work with a lot of organisms moved up the chain through time.
    Apes share around 98 or 99% of the same genetic structure we do! I think God made man, but using 98 or 99% of the DNA code He used on apes. That is why apes are still around.
    There doesn’t have to be so much animosity between science and God. Notice I didn’t say science and Religion, because they aren’t actually the same thing in my mind.
    I hope I am welcome to speak on your blog. As person who calls himself a Christian I feel duty bound to love and respect everyone to the best of my ability. And respect their rights to think the way they feel best. I am sorry if there have been people in the past who didn’t seem to be showing love and respect!
    I think I probably have the same passion about science that 98 or 99% of your readers do.
    Thank you very much!
    Dave Briggs :~)

  6. #6 CleveDan
    December 14, 2007

    “Dumbest. Statement. Ever.”

    Jason, As someone who comments on the ID creationist debate often…I think this a blog title that you could use once per week

  7. #7 windy
    December 14, 2007

    I am a Christian who believes in evolution. Is that an oxymoron? No, I don’t think so. I don’t believe that mankind evolved from primordial slime up to man, but with 4.5 billion years to work with a lot of organisms moved up the chain through time.

    Hi Dave, your enthusiasm and work with science are commendable, but you might have misunderstood some things about evolution. There is no chain of evolution to move up on, there’s a branching pattern of species adapting to different environments. Bacteria and humans are equally evolved.

    Apes share around 98 or 99% of the same genetic structure we do! I think God made man, but using 98 or 99% of the DNA code He used on apes.

    The standard retort of course is that human DNA contains much of the same retroviral inserts and copying errors that apes have, that can be dated to certain events in the past to show a branching pattern. For example, God apparently took two ape chromosomes and haphazardly fastened them together instead of making a brand spanking new one. Why would God copy ape DNA in a way that exactly mimics natural common descent? Do you think other apes share common descent, and did they exist before humans?

    That is why apes are still around.

    Sincere question: why would this explain why apes are still around? Does God need them to be around?

  8. #8 freethinker
    December 14, 2007

    Guess what? The founding fathers did not consider the U.S. to be a christian country. They even made this the “supreme law of the land under the constitution. As President, George Washington, ordered the negotiation of The Treaty of Peace and Friendship with Tunis and Algiers which was ratified by the Senate and became the supreme law of the land, under the U.S. Constitution, on June 10, 1797. Most of the Barbary treaties contained text describing the “Christian Powers” in order to differentiate between the U.S. and the European powers. But the money quote comes from article 11 of the treaty mentioned above. “As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion.” http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/diplomacy/barbary/bar1796t.htm

  9. #9 Dave Briggs
    December 16, 2007

    Hi Windy,
    Thanks very much for your kind words! I have learned both in the science camp and the God camp to be able to humbly say, I don’t know! But I have thoughts and opinions on a lot of things, sometimes educated guesses.
    I think these things are too complicated to go in depth in here but if you want to click on my name below and then on the Contact Us button it will give you my personal e-mail and I would be happy to discuss this further if you wish. :~)
    Sincere question: why would this explain why apes are still around? Does God need them to be around?
    A sincere question deserves a sincere answer! I don’t believe that God “needs” to have the apes, or the birds of the air, the fish of the seas or the beautiful flowers of the fields to be around, but the fact that they are here proves He “wants” them to be around.
    Thanks again,
    Dave Briggs :~)

  10. #10 Jim
    December 16, 2007

    I don’t believe that God “needs” to have the apes, or the birds of the air, the fish of the seas or the beautiful flowers of the fields to be around, but the fact that they are here proves He “wants” them to be around.

    The existence of apes proves nothing of the sort, of course.

  11. #11 Dave Briggs
    December 17, 2007

    Hi Jim,
    Thank you very much for your comment. You are, of course, correct! I was thankful for Windy’s comment because it got me thinking over the weekend. I am not sure that I believe that anyone will ever be able to come up with an empirical test to prove the existence of God. That being the case, using the word, prove seems like it may be an exercise in futility.
    I apologize. Perhaps it would have been better if I said, implies to me, rather than prove. Please feel free to correct me any time and thanks again!
    Dave Briggs :~)

  12. #12 ryan
    May 8, 2008

    I was in a group Bible class in a friend’s church, and we watched atheist Dr. Newdow debate a theologian from Gordon-Cromwell seminary. I thought Dr. N won, but the others were ripping into the Dr. and praising the theologian. I layed into these clowns about the age of the Earth, and the teacher tried to deflect the issue. The I started going on about geocentricity and the Book of Joshua. Their arguments were lame, along the lines of “the Hebrew does not mean what the English says” and other rationalizing. I have concluded that we should Mike-Huckabee the creationists- attack from the right by thematizing geocentrism whenever possible.

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  17. #17 travesti
    May 13, 2008

    one you say that religion ought to be a public matter, yes, you’re going to get ugly attacks on one another’s religions, particularly if you’ve got minority religion candidates in the race.

  18. #18 travesti
    May 13, 2008

    one you say that religion ought to be a public matter, yes, you’re going to get ugly attacks on one another’s religions, particularly if you’ve got minority religion candidates in the race.

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  28. #28 Raymond Minton
    January 18, 2009

    Rachel Maddow truly is the only one on MSNBC who isn’t a nutcase. And Chris Matthews may once have been a journalist, just as Dick Cheney was once an adorable infant, but using that description in reference to him now is guaranteed to produce snickers and guffaws!

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