“Forget about it.” That was the advice given to a doctoral candidate who asked a superstar professor about the chances of getting a prestigious fellowship. “You don’t stand a chance,” he explained, “They’d never give it to a conservative, and especially not to you, an evangelical.”
This blunt assessment brought to the fore a situation that few want to acknowledge — today’s evangelicals face ostracism that is as pervasive as adulterers faced in the era of Hester Prynne’s “A.” Pin an “E” for evangelical on your shirt and you’re in for serious discrimination and hostile personal and professional attacks. Never mind that, traditionally, ad hominem attacks were unheard of from serious journalists and definitely were not in the arsenal of honorable members of Congress.
Today, though, personal, ad hominem attacks on those who hold biblically orthodox beliefs and values are increasingly commonplace. We’ve grown used to such attacks on nominees for the Supreme Court — “Borking” is so common it has become part of our vocabulary. Now, other political appointees face the same treatment. Just ask Attorney General Ashcroft. Ashcroft, a man with Yale and University of Chicago degrees, was described as “goofy” and “hapless.” His career was described as “more comic-gothic than inspiring or statesmanlike.” Ashcroft, said one journalist, “scares cosmopolitan secularists witless” and he was described as a “hard-edged zealot,” “an extremist of the right,” and a “religious fundamentalist.” When Ashcroft’s press advisors quite reasonably draped the statuary behind the podium to better frame the televised picture during his press conferences, Ashcroft was depicted as so “prudish he can’t tolerate unclothed statuary.”
Such distortions extend to many other prominent evangelicals as well, including President Bush. Frequently, derogatory characterizations of Bush are accompanied by statements about how outspoken he is in affirming his born-again faith. Bush, a man with a Harvard M.B.A. and a successful career as an entrepreneur and businessman prior to entering the political arena, is often portrayed in the media as “dumb.” More often, he is depicted as “controlled” by the “religious right wing” that “engineered his election to the presidency.”
One of the most egregious and destructive campaigns to date is against Dr. W. David Hager, a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist from Lexington, Kentucky who is possibly going to be nominated to serve on the Food and Drug Administration’s Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee (a non-salaried board that is significant only because it will determine the safety of drugs like RU-486). Originally, Hager was slated to chair the committee. After pro-abortion groups went on the offensive, word very quickly went out that Hager would probably “just be a member of the committee.” What stirred the ire of organizations like the National Organization for Women and Planned Parenthood? Primarily, they complain that he “mixes religion with medicine.” What prompted Senators like Barbara Boxer and Ted Kennedy to get involved? They object because he “opposes women’s reproductive rights.” Regarding appointments like this, it seems that promoting the abortion agenda is more important than women’s health concerns.
These groups have a right to oppose Hager’s appointment on the basis of ideological differences, but they have crossed a line in attacking Dr. Hager. The New York Times opinion editorial by Maureen Dowd was particularly vicious and was almost entirely a personal attack on his religious faith. Time Magazine and the hastily assembled feminist offensive claim that he is “scantily credentialed” yet his resume includes more than three dozen refereed journal articles and more than a dozen chapters in medical books. Hager is a unique combination of practitioner and academician — a noteworthy distinction and one that enhances both aspects of his career. Hager is a full-time physician who consistently is listed among “best doctors for women.” In addition, he serves part time on the faculty of two well-respected medical schools — Emory University School of Medicine and the University of Kentucky School of Medicine. Further, beyond his impressive academic publications, Hager has written six books and numerous articles for the popular market as well; these publications integrate his faith and medicine. His opponents have distorted the content of these non-academic articles and books so that they appear extremist when, in fact, Hager’s views are consistent with contemporary emphases on mind-body harmony to enhance medical healing. Prayer and faith are consistently cited in medical literature as factors that enhance recuperation, healing and/or psychological adjustment to inoperable or terminal medical conditions.
Many doctors aspire to excel in both the academy and in their practice; few achieve that ideal for it requires uncommon dedication and discipline — David Hager is one who has excelled in both arenas. Talk with physicians and they will speak admiringly about Hager’s research on infectious diseases. Talk with women in Lexington, Kentucky and they will give glowing reports about how Dr. Hager delivered their babies. This is man worthy of highest praise. Yet, feminists are trying to destroy such a man because their ideology takes precedence over principles like fairness, decency and truth. Even more appalling, the ideology of these “women’s rights” advocates is more important even than appointing to a drug oversight committee a physician who is committed to protecting women against drugs and procedures that will threaten their lives, health or well-being. Are they already convinced that the procedures and drugs that they advocate so unquestioningly won’t stand up to scrutiny?