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Critics, cynics didn't get Ted Kennedy's idealism

"America is simultaneously the most professedly Christian of the developed nations and the least Christian in its behavior," he wrote in the piece that was subtitled "How a faithful nation gets Jesus wrong."

A few weeks later, I asked a Catholic priest I knew if he'd read it. "Read it?" he said. "I felt like standing up and applauding after I'd finished it."

This came back to me when Sen. Edward Kennedy died last August. Republican politicians who knew him regarded him with affection and generally admired him personally. Yet, he'd long been a hate figure for the right. Its spokespersons didn't let up when he was dying: one of the hardest working of politicians from the beginning of his long career, he was attacked for not showing up in the Senate. Nor could they stop themselves when he lost his battle with brain cancer. A columnist in the conservative Washington Times labeled his death a "good career move."

I thought of the McKibben piece again before Christmas when I interviewed

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