Heard a fascinating article on NPR’s Morning Edition yesterday. Democratic politicians are making more of an effort to express their faith publicly these days. Many feel that the electoral triumph of Virginia Governor-Elect Tim Kaine is due in large part to his vocal acknowledgement of his Catholicism.
Apparently, this tactic has caught the attention of other Dems. In fact, Kaine’s campaign was partly funded by the Democratic National Committee as a pilot project for reaching out to the faithful.
The point that these people make is not a bad one, namely that Democrats are not lacking a spiritual side. For no particularly sane reason, the Republican party has managed to convince religous Americans in ever-growing numbers that the Democrats are not merely the party of free-wheeling, no-orifices-barred secular liberalism, but that in fact we are anti-religion. The underlying suggestion seems to be that, left unchecked, the liberals will ban religion altogether….doubtless to be quickly followed by the Compulsive Child Sodomy Act of 2006.
It would be nice to make concerned religious Americans aware that this is not the case.
So let me put this to you as simply as I can: WE DON’T CARE ONE WAY OR THE OTHER ABOUT YOUR RELIGIOUS BELIEFS. YOU ARE WELCOME TO WORSHIP WHO, HOW, WHEN AND WHERE YOU CHOOSE.
This is the core of true liberalism; the conviction that people with vastly different belief systems can live and work together, with the judicious application of a little self-awareness and common courtesy. It is the philoshopy at the very heart of the liberal rallying cry, “Strength Through Diversity”. Conservative talking heads can always come up with a hard-core leftie whack job or two to flesh out their anti-Democratic diatribes, but I think it’s safe to say that, by definition, liberals tend to be more accepting of people’s differences than conservatives. Contrary to what a Bill O’Reilly or Michael Medved might say about it, this tendency includes accepting those who believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ, Jehova, Allah, Buddha, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Those of us who believe as you do celebrate your faith. Those of us who don’t wish you all the best.
But—and this is a big, bouncy bubble but—we don’t particularly want to hear about it. It just doesn’t seem necessary to the acknowledgement of your right to worship to be forced to experience your epiphany with you. Sometimes we feel like seeing what all the fuss is about, in which case your calm and friendly indulgence might help to win a few of us over to your side. Other than that, however, we’d prefer that you try not to go overboard showing yourselves off.
This is the very behavior in which all of our friends of faith—the people who in my mind represent the very best of what it means to have one’s life informed by a divine Presence—participate on a daily basis. They artfully and earnestly straddle the line between the terrestrial and the celestial, living the life they feel God wants for them while bearing in mind the sensibilities of us, their poor, benighted, hellbound friends. I joke, but I’m serious when I say that I appreciate their efforts. These people know, really know, that their friends and loved ones are destined for the Lake of Fire if they don’t change their ways. They also know that hounding us until we can no longer bear to be in their presence will not save us, that it might in fact drive us further away from the path that will save our eternal selves. All they can do is live their lives as they are expected to do, and hope that, by example, by chance or by divine intervention, we find our way back to the light. That, to my mind, is the pinnacle of adherence to the liberal social contract. We should all be so virtuous.
“But Uncle Andrew, what about other groups like, say, the gays? Don’t you think they go out of their way to shove their lifestyles in our faces? Aren’t they violating the social contract you’re describing here?”
Um, yeah, sort of, but not really. First of all, some leeway has to be granted for groups that are marginalized by the greater society. Expressions of personal pride and empowerment are bound to be more pointed and exuberant among embattled minorities than among members of the majority. In this context, gays certainly count as a minority, both in terms of their population numbers (the numbers for this are all over the place, but most folks would probably agree that the total lies somewhere at or under ten percent) and overall national sentiment, particularly in relation to religion.
And yes, religious people in general and Christians in particular are in the majority in America. The idea that Christians are as a group locked in a battle for their survival in this country is, well, it’s pathetic. The threats, be they gay marriage, Wicca or the desire to remove the phrase “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance, are to my mind so much smoke, nothing but a bit of underdone potato.
The fact that Christians have been told by a reliable source that the world will be rent asunder might help to explain why some of them try so desperately to identify the social cancers that will rot our nation from within and bring about our downfall. (Me, I’m counting on drastic climate change to fuck us all, so I’m more inclined to blame the world’s ills on the Hummer H2.)
Here’s a handy litmus test: if a member of your group faces a quantifiable probability of being beaten with chains, hung from a fencepost or dragged to his/her death behind a pickup truck in America’s heartland simply for being a member of said group, in my book you’ve earned the right to some extra consideration when expressing your pride publicly. If, on the other hand, your group’s core message is so prevalent that it appears on your nation’s money, you probably have all the support and empowerment you really need, and can safely consider reigning in your public self-aggrandizement just a bit.
(This is not meant to suggest that anything remotely resembling a plurality of middle Americans would ever dream of participating in such brutality, just that, barring some sort of mental illness, none of them would ever consider doing such a thing to their Caucaso-Christian brethren.)
Secondly, organized marches and parades really don’t count. You’re welcome to witness them or not, depending on your preference. Ditto with television, movies and other media. Don’t like it, don’t watch it. If you are referring to “offensive” content on T-shirts, magazine or album covers, posted bills, etc., well, there’s a remedy for that: it’s spelled out in Miller v. California. Freedom of expression does not trump obscenity as perceived through the filter of community standards. So file a lawsuit, if averting your eyes seems like too much effort.
If on the other hand your objection has to do with such impositions as normal public displays of affection between homosexuals (kissing, holding hands, etc.) well, I’m sure your local Yellow Pages has complete contact information for many fine therapists in your area.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, religion and the Democratic Party. The point is, you are welcome to express your faith—or lack of same—under the Dem’s tent. The fact that it is not brought up every single time a liberal talking head opens his or her mouth should not be taken as an ominous sign; quite the opposite, in fact.
Let’s face up to something here, shall we? While the Republican platform treats religion in general as crucial to both the character of the individual and the survival of the society, the vast majority of the Republican leadership is Christian in particular. As a (lapsed, non-observing, half-) Jew, lemme tell you that being welcomed with open arms by evangelical Christian conservatives kind of creeps me out. There’s the very real possibility that their support of Judaism stems solely from their understanding that the Rapture will not occur unless the nation of Israel is in existence on Earth….so it can be destroyed.
From a purely objective standpoint, which political party do you think a devout member of a non-Christian faith would really feel accepted in? The one whose members believe with all their heart that “Thou shalt have no other Gods before Me” (particularly considering that members of this party seem to have trouble accepting the existence of people who believe in no God at all, much less those who pledge themselves to “the competition”)? Or the one whose stance is closer to “sure, whatever, it’s all good”?
Which would the impartial observer most likely decide was a good home for those who might not necessarily believe Jesus was the son of God? Or even just white?
And while we’re on the subject, does it bother anyone else that conservative Christians seem to put such a premium on their political leaders’ incessant and public proclamation of their faith? Does this not ring somewhat hollow after a while, even to those who feel they have a vested interest in seeing that people of religious conviction make it into public office? Three words, guys: Matthew Six Six. Apparently, God Himself isn’t impressed with your pious public overtures either.
Maybe, just maybe, the Democratic Party has not felt it necessary to toot their own celestial horn, not because they are utterly without a spiritual and moral core, but because to do so makes one appear smarmy and self-righteous. This would seem the, well, the honest and unassuming way to go about one’s faith.
Until, of course, some other group hoping to discredit you launches a cynical campaign to portray you as morally bankrupt and, more galling still, furthering the aims of the Enemy.