Thursday, May 05, 2005

Faith Fissures

The Moose notes that two conservative columnists take issue with the faithful.

As the Moose averred yesterday, this is a moment of opportunity for progressives to reach out to the religiously observant. It is also a time of some conservative unease with the religious right. That uneasiness surfaced during the Schiavo episode when some on the right expressed reservations over Republican state intervention and over-reach in that controversial case.

Today, two influential conservative columnists elaborate on their nuanced view of the Republican faithful. In the New York Times, David Brooks presents a superbly nuanced and intellectually honest view of faith and politics. Using Lincoln as a model, Brooks says that Lincoln " was neither a scoffer nor a guy who could talk directly to God. Instead, he wrestled with faith, longing to be more religious, but never getting there."

Brooks then eloquently and aptly describes the American approach to faith,

"Today, a lot of us are stuck in Lincoln's land. We reject the bland relativism of the militant secularists. We reject the smug ignorance of, say, a Robert Kuttner, who recently argued that the culture war is a contest between enlightened reason and dogmatic absolutism. But neither can we share the conviction of the orthodox believers, like the new pope, who find maximum freedom in obedience to eternal truth. We're a little nervous about the perfectionism that often infects evangelical politics, the rush to crash through procedural checks and balances in order to reach the point of maximum moral correctness."

Then, Brooks takes issue both with the secular absolutism of the ACLU and the current political objective of the religious right,

"One lesson we can learn from Lincoln is that there is no one vocabulary we can use to settle great issues. There is the secular vocabulary and the sacred vocabulary. Whether the A.C.L.U. likes it or not, both are legitimate parts of the discussion.

"Another is that while the evangelical tradition is deeply consistent with the American creed, sometimes evangelical causes can overflow the banks defined by our founding documents. I believe the social conservatives' attempt to end the judicial filibuster is one of these cases."

This is exactly the balance that progressives must strike when addressing faith in politics. The left must find a "third way" between the poles of the ACLU and the religious right.

Meanwhile, George Will spanks the religious right for playing the victimization card,

"Some Christians should practice the magnanimity of the strong rather than cultivate the grievances of the weak. But many Christians are joining today's scramble for the status of victims. There is much lamentation about various "assaults" on "people of faith." Christians are indeed experiencing some petty insults and indignities concerning things such as restrictions on school Christmas observances. But their persecution complex is unbecoming because it is unrealistic."

The right has become the mirror image of all they dislike about the left. Both the secular and the religious right kvetch about their victimization while they control at least two branches of government and their penetration of the media is thorough and growing. They are crybabies who patrol the halls of power.

The left has an opening to both appeal to Republican moderates who are repulsed by the direction of their party and to the religiously observant who reject the leadership of the Dobsons, Falwells and Robertson's. The progressive approach should be as sophisticated and nuanced as Brooks' column.

Take back the pews! (Senator Obama, are you listening?)
-- Posted at 8:36 AM | Link to this post | Email this post