Having been exposed, it's time to confess: I have more in common with those Christian-eating lions than any of you might think. Yes, I've caused a lot of agony, more pain than even a pocketful of Oxycontin pills could help. But before I reveal my shameful secret, I'll make another rather embarrassing admission: Sometimes I Google myself.
I know that sounds dirty and, in a way, I suppose it is. What kind of outrageous vanity and self-absorption does it take to look yourself up on the Internet? But I don't do it, like, every day or anything. And it doesn't hurt to see what people are saying about you, unless it's really vicious, in which case, sure, it hurts a little.
Anyway, that's how I found out about Persecution. Some guy named Phil Brennan, who works for a rabidly conservative news site called NewsMax.com (which also publishes a weekly column by Rush's brother), included my name in his raving review of the book.
So I called my friendly neighborhood Barnes and Noble and asked if they had it. After a rather long wait on hold, the clerk came back on the line and said, "They're going fast, but I did find two copies."
I knew it had been on the New York Times bestseller list in October and early November, but it was dropping fast on amazon.com's sales list (down to 295 at press time). I drove over to the bookstore, sat down with the hardcover, and found my name in the index. At the top of page 272 was a section titled "The American Taliban," where Rush's brother quoted this passage of mine: "The underbelly of the Christian Right is as scary as anything that ever dwelled in a Tora Bora cave. If September 11 taught us anything, it should have been to distrust religious fundamentalists of any kind, to leave them stranded on the banks of the political mainstream where they belong."
It came from an August 29, 2002, column titled "Plumbing the Depths of the Christian Taliban." Rush's brother also reprinted a couple of paragraphs in which I used the terms "evangelical loonies" and "Christian wackos."
But he forgot to explain the meat of the column. It was about Jerry Regier, the good Christian man from Oklahoma whom Gov. Jeb Bush appointed last year as the head of the Department of Children and Families. Earlier this month, brothers and sisters, the DCF chief proposed that Florida's social workers be "adopted" by church groups, who would pray for them. Isn't that special?
He's way out there, man. The Sun-Sentinel found he'd endorsed fundamentalist Christian doctrines that encourage parents to smite their children with rods -- bruises and welts were welcome -- and for husbands to lord over their wives. For the Taliban column, I dug a bit further and found that Regier had been aligned with a group of what are called Reconstructionists who believe that Christians should take over the world and rule it strictly by the Bible. Some of Regier's former associates believed in such things as the death penalty for homosexuals, blasphemers, adulterers, fornicators, and incorrigible children. You know, pretty much anyone with a pulse. Preferred method of execution? Stoning, of course.
But Rush's brother didn't mention any of that, which was a good thing, since it might have spoiled some good knee-jerk reactions. Context, as we all know, is the devil's playground.
Now, to be honest, I regret calling them wackos and loonies. A friend called me out one night at Kim's Alley Bar on the matter, saying that using such shrill terms only hurt my argument. I agreed. Throwing out insults is not only impolite but it also kills any chance that those who disagree will give you a good listen. And God knows, I want evangelical loonies and Christian wackos to read my stuff.
The outfit that put out the book, Regnery Publishing, would never, ever stoop to such irresponsible hyperbole as I did. It prints only the soberest political research, such as its semiannual Bill Clinton exposés, which detail how the former president murdered Vince Foster, how Hillary decorated America's Christmas tree with little crack-pipe ornaments, and how Bubba was once involved in drug smuggling. Rush's brother is just one more voice of the fair and balanced truth on the Regnery list, which is rife with literary lions like Ann Coulter, William Bennett, and Ollie North.