Democrats, Christians And Social Issues

May 9, 2005

At the risk of further provoking the brilliant George Will, I must say that the national Democratic Party’s approach to Christians is analogous to an abusive husband in complete denial, seeking reconciliation when it suits his purposes, but otherwise engaged in a pattern of abuse.

Just like certain abusive spouses, the party can’t live with Christians but can’t live without them (politically). No matter how distasteful some may find our chronicling of it to be, the systematic abuse is demonstrable, as I documented in my book.

Nevertheless, significant confusion persists over these issues, among many on the Left and the Right, so permit me to take a stab at clarifying a few points.

The popular culture does routinely mock and demean Christians, who are the only group not protected by the selective “tolerance” of political correctness, but mere derision is not our primary grievance. We cite it mainly to demonstrate the antipathy of the secularist culture toward people of faith.

More troubling are the discrimination against Christians at the hands of the government — mainly the courts — and the consequent suppression of their religious liberty, and the scrubbing of Christianity from the public square, as if it were a contagious airborne disease.

Those of us who have complained about these patterns are not, as some have asserted, equating the disparagement of Christians with the suppression of their liberties. Though they arise from the same mindset, they are two different things, one involving the infringement of constitutional liberties and the other contributing to a climate conducive to such infringement.

I don’t highlight these abuses for the sake of whining, to evoke sympathy, to incite counter-abuse against the perpetrators or to portray Christians as helpless victims. My purpose is to wake up the dormant, naive, oblivious and apathetic among us. As Christians we will only lose our religious liberties and be defeated in the Culture War, if we permit it to happen.

While many secularists seem to believe otherwise, Christians want neither a Christian theocracy, nor the suppression of religious liberties of any other group. Christianity stands for freedom, and we will vigorously defend the religious liberty of anyone, regardless of his faith or lack thereof. But we must demand an equal seat at the table of religious liberties.

Some Christians insist we should stay out of politics and stick to the task of winning souls for Christ. But the two activities are hardly mutually exclusive; indeed, they’re complementary. It’s not enough for Christians to fight for their values only at the level of the culture, because by doing so, they ignore the profound impact of politics and government on the culture.

Granted, the Supreme Court probably couldn’t have “legalized” abortion or outlawed voluntary nonsectarian payer in public schools in a cultural vacuum — unless there were a degree of receptiveness to those decisions in the culture. On the other hand, the Court’s decisions in such cases greatly accelerated the coarsening of the culture. For Christians to fully and effectively engage in the Culture War (among many other reasons) — they must participate in politics and government.

So I disagree with George Will’s implication that certain Christians are invoking a “religious test” of sorts when they confess, for example, that Rudy Giuliani is not their first choice for president. Rudy’s religion — whatever it may be — has little to do with it. It’s his position on social issues that makes him less than the optimal candidate, despite his other admirable qualities and qualifications.

Most Christian conservatives care as much about social issues as the economy and national security. Unless candidates share their values, they will not resonate with Christian conservatives on all bases.

That’s why it’s almost humorous to read of a conference of secular liberals at the City College of New York called “Examining the Real Agenda of the Religious Far Right,” or an analysis of the liberal think tank, the Progressive Policy Institute, arguing that Democrats are suffering from a severe “parent gap.” Do they really need conferences and issue papers telling them what is patently obvious: that parents are concerned about “morally corrosive forces in our culture”?

The way to reach Christians — or values voters, if you prefer — is the same as reaching any other group. You must stand for — not just pay patronizing lip service to — the things they believe in.

Most Christian conservatives are not single issue — or even single category of issues — people. But they do care deeply about social issues and believe in electing executives who will appoint constitutionalist judges and legislators who will confirm them — and who share and will promote, within the law, their values.

For liberals to woo Christian conservatives, they must stop the pattern of abuse and get on the right side of the Culture War. Pretending to do so just won’t be enough.