Somewhere I read that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." That's going to be inconvenient for the GOP, because if they're going to appease Kathleen Parker and her cadre of enlightened conservatives, rank and file Republicans might have to assume powers not granted to mere congressmen. In "Giving Up on God", Kathleen Parker (Washington Post) asserts that conservative Christians have derailed the conservative movement, and because of this, the Jesus Freaks need to be silenced. Here are some words K.P. uses to refer to Christianity within the GOP:
- The evangelical, right-wing, oogedy-boogedy branch of the GOP
- The gorilla in the pulpit
- An element that used to be relegated to wooden crates on street corners
These phrases reek of anti-Christian bigotry. Aren't there already enough people attacking innocent, law-abiding Christians? Apparently not so many that Parker feels she should keep her prejudice to herself.
Except for quoting Sarah Palin on her prayerful approach to her decision about what to do in 2012, Parker doesn't tell us much about what "evangelical, right-wing, oogedy-boogedy" conservatives have done to offend her delicate, highly sophisticated sensibilities. Nor does she really explain how the Republicans would be helped by promoting bigotry toward "lowbrow" Christians...she just expects her readers to accept it as an article of faith.
Parker hints at the idea that religious Republicans are scaring people. But she fails to convince me that getting rid of the "gorilla in the pulpit" will help conservatives to attract groups that have traditionally shied away from the Republican Party, i.e., nonchristian people, nonwhites, and unmarried people. Except with the self-described "intelligentsia" to which Kath apparently thinks she belongs, conservative values, many of which are rooted in religious tradition, are still very popular (including those embarrassing social values promulgated by the wooden crate set, e.g., Proposition 8).
Isn't tolerance a hallmark of enlightenment and an all-important badge of courage for members of the intelligentsia? Well, that all depends on what you're tolerating. Tolerance of evangelical Christianity is not on Kathleen's list. Parker suggests that if Christianity is to be practiced by conservatives all, it should be practiced privately. Why? Because Christianity is unenlightened, unintelligent and just plain gauche. In many ways, being openly Christian is like being married to your cousin, except maybe worse.
Let's get this straight. Should the conservative movement welcome nonreligious people? Yes. Should religious conservatives use the government to impose their beliefs on other people? Absolutely not. Should the conservative movement treat religious people like a bunch of crazy uncles? No, not unless they start talking like Jeremiah Wright. Will an unnecessary schism between religious and nonreligious conservatives help advance their common goals? Of course not.
To be consistent, perhaps Kathleen "quasi-conservative" Parker should expand her crusade against public displays of religiosity by speaking out against Obama-mania. But Kath makes no mention of any concern for religious fervor directed toward charismatic demagogues. It's religion of the traditional variety that she finds objectionable. Of course, Kath isn't alone her fear of traditional religion. Over recent decades, with its ambivalence toward traditional morality, the Democratic party has struggled to attract churchgoers. Here's what a liberal atheist has to say about the matter:
"Morality is not just about how we treat each other (as most liberals think); it is also about binding groups together, supporting essential institutions, and living in a sanctified and noble way. When Republicans say that Democrats 'just don't get it,' this is the 'it' to which they refer. Conservative positions on gays, guns, god, and immigration must be understood as means to achieve one kind of morally ordered society. When Democrats try to explain away these positions using pop psychology they err, they alienate, and they earn the label 'elitist.' But how can Democrats learn to see—let alone respect—a moral order they regard as narrow-minded, racist, and dumb?"
Obama successfully harnessed the power of the moral foundations to gain the support of approximately half of the electorate. I thought that the creepy religiosity of Obama's campaign would turn voters off, but the proof is in the pudding. He stumbled a little with his comments about irrational people who bitterly cling to God and guns, but with those very comments, insulting as they were, Obama demonstrated that he understands the importance of moral foundations and the power of religious convictions. As an example of Obama's success, consider this: despite having policies that fly in the face of Catholic teaching, Obama managed to pull in 54% of the Catholic vote.
Religion, at its best, can be a framework in which people organize their moral values. Moral values, in turn, guide people in their political decision making. Moral values founded in religious tradition help people make decisions on a more profound level...a level deeper than the one in which voters simply pull the lever for the slick politician who promises a bigger tax rebate.
My question for Kathleen Parker and like-minded individuals: why not work cooperatively with religious conservatives to make use of the moral foundations to advance a strengthened conservative agenda?
"'Tis substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government." George Washington in his Farewell Address, September 19, 1796