If, a few years ago, I had been told there was a big Hollywood movie coming out about Jesus Christ directed by a man named Mel, I probably would have assumed that they were talking about a comedy by Mel Brooks -- a la his famous Spanish Inquisition high-kicking dancing nuns routine in the movie "History of the World, Part I." After all, the last two Hollywood Christ-story movies were Monty Python's satirical "Life of Brian" and Martin Scorsese's heretical "Last Temptation of Christ." I would never have guessed the movie would be a sincere, faithful, non-ironic portrayal of the Biblical account.
Similarly, if I had been told that a New York Times reporter asked the Democratic candidate for president whether he believed that God was on our side, I would have assumed it was in some Harvard University Hasty Pudding satirical review -- not in a CBS presidential debate. The last time I had heard that phrase in public, it was in a 1960's Joan Baez anti-war folk song in which the competing armies both ironically had "God on our side." The only moral in that song was relativism.
And if I was informed that millions of practicing Christians were likely to vote for the president just because he opposed, on religious and moral grounds, homosexuals getting legally married to one another -- I'm sure I would have been baffled that the topic had even come up.
Add into this mix last year's General Boykin affair, in which Christians around the country rallied to the defense of a leading terrorist-fighting American general who was almost run out of the service for giving witness to his Christian faith (which he said he believed to be the true faith, in contrast to Islam) -- while off duty on Sunday mornings in church.
The Germans have a word for it: Zeitgeist -- the general intellectual, moral and cultural climate of an era. Suddenly, religion, of all things, is in the zeitgeist. Americans have become more conscious of our religious faith, and seem to be moving it back from the margins toward the center of our national life.
It is true that there has been a general religious revival going on in the private and community lives of Americans for many years now. But since September 11, 2001, our national -- not merely private or local -- consciousness seems to be drawing those religious instincts into it.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.