BoingBoing linked recently to an article full of rather unsettling claims about how much attention the White House is paying to eschatology-minded christian sects, in particular the apostolic congress. The article seems like it draws a lot of its facts and angle from an earlier one in the Village Voice.
Doug LeBlanc submits that the situation may not be as bad as it seems, but I don't follow his argument at all. He speaks of a "knowledge gap" on the part of Rick Perlstein, the author of the Voice article: Perlstein doesn't understand the connection between the Apostolic's rejection of the Trinity and their claim to legitimacy through baptism in the name of Jesus alone. Perlstein doesn't allow for the fact that, well, surely all marginal groups speak with a huffing pomp that belies their marginality. Perlstein doesn't realize that the United Pentecostal Church only accounts for a million americans.
I feel like this is missing the point. The worry is precisely that a shrill, unrepresentative — and frankly, from the perspective of an atheist or agnostic observer as concerns the apocalyptic stage-setting, lunatic — voice has the ear of those making decisions. On the other hand, it seems like the Voice article is making some pretty big inferential leaps.
While the language of apocalyptic Christianity is absent from George W. Bush's speeches, he has proven eager to work with apocalyptics—a point of pride for Upton. "We're in constant contact with the White House," he boasts. "I'm briefed at least once a week via telephone briefings. [...] I was there about two weeks ago [...] At that time we met with the president."
Hold up a minute — receiving briefings from the White house and having met with the president once counts as "eager to work with"? Maybe West Wing has corrupted my mind, but it wouldn't surprise me if any given administration has low-level staffers throwing all sorts of bones to all sorts of politically minded groups. Maybe I should be worried about the amount of attention paid to this group, but then again maybe I should be more worried about another one, even if its agenda is less extreme, if it's actually being listened to.
The fringeness of the theology isn't what counts here, and neither is the smallness of the Penecostals' constituency: what matters is how this country is actually making decisions, and even a rather small amount of definite justification from religion — or even from strict no-religion-allowed secularism — makes me uncomfortable. I just wish I knew how much was actually present.