As defined by Collins English Dictionary, a bigot is "a person who is intolerant of any ideas other than his or her own, especially on religion, politics, or race."
In contemporary culture, those who claim to tolerate everything are intolerant of ideas that come from perspectives other than their own, especially when those ideas are rooted in conservative politics or evangelical faith.
Though anti-Semitism and anti-Catholic bigotry sadly are still with us, the new and "accepted" bigotry among some on the left is for those who call themselves-or are sometimes mislabeled by people who don't know the difference between born again and born yesterday-evangelical Christians.
With two evangelicals running for president, the opening salvo in what is likely to be a God vs. government battle has already been launched.
A June 22 article in Rolling Stone gives bigots permission for more bigotry. The illustration by Victor Juhasz that accompanies it reveals where the writer is headed. Michele Bachmann is dressed as Joan of Arc with a Bible in one hand, a bloody sword in the other, a cross on her chest, and the "finger of God" pointing at her from heaven. In the background, people are being burned at the stake. Father Charles Coughlin at his worst would have had trouble topping this on his bigoted radio broadcasts in the 1930s.
Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi says Bachmann is "a religious zealot whose brain is a raging electrical storm of divine visions and paranoid delusions." One of many examples he cites is her assertion that China is "plotting to replace the dollar bill."
Recently, China's official Xinhua News Agency editorialized in favor of a new global reserve currency, replacing the dollar. Don't look for a retraction.
There's plenty more in "Michele Bachmann's Holy War" on which the bigots can feast. This is the argument of anyone who has little or no faith in God. They attack people who believe the Supreme Being does not sit in the Oval Office.
The secular left is also going after Rick Perry's faith. Writing in The New York Times, Timothy Egan refers to the Texas governor as a "biblical bully" and asks, if "God is ignoring Rick Perry?"
Ideas that come from the minds of secular liberals are considered right and good, no matter their track record. Ideas from conservatives, be they secular or especially evangelical, are "bat [expletive] crazy," according to Taibbi's scatology.
There is a way to blunt this coming tidal wave of anti-evangelical bigotry. Bachmann and Perry-and any other Republican who wishes to join in-should not play on the territory of their opponents. Instead, they should focus on what works and whose lives have been transformed by embracing similar faith and similar attitudes.
Each time a liberal wants to raise taxes to pay for more programs, Republican candidates should introduce to the public people who liberated themselves from government as examples for others to follow. Some will have experienced a spiritual conversion. Others will have simply "gotten their act together" and decided they can do more for themselves than government.
In the tradition of Horatio Alger, a story about people who have overcome is better than a story about those still wallowing in self-pity, low expectations, and welfare dependency. A positive message beats whining and class envy every time.
Growing numbers of people are addicted to government and need help getting "clean." Bachmann and Perry could respond to the bigotry by announcing a joint project to be continued no matter who wins the nomination and election. People who want to escape poverty would be introduced to local churches and synagogues, or secular organizations that operate on similar principles.
Scriptures command outreach to the poor, which most religious institutions used to do a lot more of before many ceded that role to government. Helping to transform a life is one of the greatest pleasures on Earth.
The bigots, like the poor, will be with us always, but this is one way they might be shamed into silence.
© 2011 Tribune Media Services Inc.