Thursday, May 05, 2005

Conservative Columnists Try to Temper the Religious Right

You know the religious right has drastically increased its power within the Republican Party when multiple conservative columnists are compelled to address the issue on the same day.

David Brooks argues that religion is important in politics, but that it is those religious men and women who are not absolutists that have the most to offer. He concludes:
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.

Lincoln's core lesson is that while the faithful and the faithless go at each other in their symbiotic culture war, those of us trapped wrestling with faith are not without the means to get up and lead.

George Will criticizes the Christian conservatives for buying into America’s victim culture. He says, “their persecution complex is unbecoming because it is unrealistic,” and goes on to show how welcome religion really is in our culture.

James Taranto asserts the opposite of Will, saying social conservatives really are demonized. While Taranto is careful to say he doesn’t really agree with social conservatives, he does say:

Curiously, while secular liberals underestimate the intellectual seriousness of the religious right, they also overestimate its uniformity and ambition. The hysterical talk about an incipient "theocracy"--as if that is what America was before 1963, when the Supreme Court banned prayer in public schools--is either utterly cynical or staggeringly naive.

Finally, semi-conservative Christopher Hitchens pulls no punches as he blasts the religious right for their improper power grabs and even for their ignorance of the teachings of Jesus. Hitchens most potent argument:
Is there a single thinking person who does not hope that secular forces arise in both [Afghanistan and Iraq], and who does not realize that the success of our cause depends on a wall of separation, in Islamic society, between church and state? How can we maintain this cause abroad and subvert it at home?

It’s clear from all the hand-wringing that conservative columnists are experiencing the same discomfort many Americans are feeling toward the social conservative movement. The Republican party may have achieved dominance through the energy and electoral might of the religious right, but that same faction could very well ruin Republican dominance.

When George Will starts sounding like a centrist, you know the tenor of politics is shifting.


At 4:20 PM, Blogger acerimusdux said...

Christopher Hitchens is hardly a conservative. He's a left winger who hates religion of all kinds. His support for the "war on terror" comes largely from his view of it as ultimately a war against Islamic extremism.

He's a atheist who, when he isn't railing against the Taliban, is likely to be railing against Mother Theresa. He wrote for the Nation for 20 years.

I believe he's still generally a leftist on social and econiomic issues, as well as most foriegn policy issues. And I suspect that his British roots also play a large role in his position on Iraq, as in that country it is the Conservatives who have become the opponents of the war.

At 4:49 PM, Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...

True, Hitchens is not a conservative in the truest sense, but he's no liberal either. He's pretty much disavowed the Nation crowd. Perhaps instead of semi-conservative I should have said sometimes-conservative.

At 11:12 AM, Blogger Tom - doubts and all said...

Left, right and center we can stand to temper our vitriol, including me. I think we should let our passion keep fueling our effort, but our rhetoric?...not so much.


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