Before the poll numbers came out on religious belief in America, Dean said: "We have got to stop having our elections in the South based on race, guns, God and gays." Higher taxes, gay marriage, abortion on demand and surrender in Iraq ? that'll do the trick in Mississippi!
Then about a month ago, the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press released a poll showing that people who regularly attend religious services supported Bush 63 percent to 37 percent, and those who never attend religious services opposed him 62 percent to 38 percent. When you exclude blacks (as they do in Vermont), who are overwhelmingly Baptist and overwhelmingly Democratic, and rerun the numbers, basically any white person who believes in God is a Republican.
The only Democrats who go to church regularly are the ones who plan to run for president someday and are preparing in advance to fake a belief in God.
Though Dean is pursuing the Jesus thing with a vengeance, the results so far have been mixed. In Iowa last week, Dean said, "Let's get into a little religion here," and then began denouncing Christian minister Jerry Falwell. "Don't you think Jerry Falwell reminds you a lot more of the Pharisees than he does of the teachings of Jesus?" I don't even know what Dean means by that. I am sure his audience doesn't.
Rapping with reporters about God on the campaign plane, Dean said, "[I]f you know much about the Bible, which I do" ? and then proceeded to confuse the Old Testament with the New Testament.
Dean illiterately claimed his favorite book of the New Testament was the Book of Job. (He said his least favorite was the Book of Numbers and then explained how he planned to balance the budget.) Having already complained to DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe about other Democrats attacking him, Dean recently said: "I'm feeling a little more Job-like recently." That's comforting. A few snippy remarks from the likes of Dick Gephardt and Dean thinks it's the wrath of the God of Abraham. Yeah, that's definitely the guy we want leading the nation in perilous times.
Dean's epiphanic religious awakening occurred over a bike path ? and that's his version of what happened. He was baptized Catholic and raised an Episcopalian, but left the Episcopal Church in a huff when he finally found his true religion: environmentally friendly exercise.
The Episcopalians don't demand much in the way of actual religious belief. They have girl priests, gay priests, gay bishops, gay marriages ? it's much like the New York Times editorial board. They acknowledge the Ten Commandments ? or "Moses' talking points" ? but hasten to add that they're not exactly "carved in stone." After Bush said that the most important philosopher to him was Jesus Christ, the Episcopal bishop in Des Moines, Iowa, C. Christopher Epting, pronounced the answer "a turnoff." So there isn't a lot of hair-shirt-wearing and sacrifice for the Episcopalians.
But the bike path incident was too much for Dean. A key tenet of the Druidical religion of liberals is non-fossil-fuel travel. So Dean left the Church of the Proper Fork because the Episcopal Church in Montpelier hesitated before ceding some of its land for a bike path.
On CNN, Judy Woodruff asked in amazement, "Was it just over a bike path that you left the Episcopal Church?"
Dean: "Yes, as a matter of fact it was."
Dean waxed expansive on the theological implications of bike paths, saying: "I didn't think that was very public-spirited."
But recently, Dean has leapt even beyond the DLC-recommended "God's green earth" and begun talking about Jesus, saying, "He was a person who set an extraordinary example that has lasted 2,000 years, which is pretty inspiring when you think about it." Gosh, Jesus is giving Oprah a run for her money. Also, Christ died for our sins, but let's not get into the hocus-pocus part of Christianity. The gist of the New Testament is about bike paths.
Dean's relationship with Jesus is a little like David Lloyd George's relationship with the Slovaks. At the Treaty of Versailles conference, the British prime minister was heard to whisper: "Who are the Slovaks again? I can never place them."