Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The Right of The Right

In his first Vox Blogoli of 2005, Hugh Hewitt invites bloggers to share their reactions to the following passage from Jonathan Rauch’s recent piece in the Atlantic:

“On balance it is probably healthier if religious conservatives are inside the political system than if they operate as insurgents and provocateurs on the outside. Better they should write anti-abortion planks into the Republican platform than bomb abortion clinics. The same is true of the left. The clashes over civil rights and Vietnam turned into street warfare partly because activists were locked out of their own party establishments and had to fight, literally, to be heard. When Michael Moore receives a hero’s welcome at the Democratic National Convention, we moderates grumble; but if the parties engage fierce activists while marginalizing tame centrists, that is probably better for the social peace than the other way around.”

If only saying it could make it so.

In one sweeping, scornful passage, Jonathan Rauch equates religious conservatives to “insurgents and provocateurs,” those fearsome maniacs who “bomb abortion clinics.” According to Rauch, it’s best to throw these “fierce activists” an ideological bone by letting them think they’re included equally with the “tame centrists” of their party. This placation of the lunatic fringe is necessary to keep the “social peace.”


Excuse me, but I haven’t noticed an excess of “fierce activists” roaming the streets, have you? Considering the election results of November 2, I’d say Rauch has completely missed the point that a large segment of the right’s “tame centrists” are actually religious conservatives.

As evidence, I would submit that most religious conservatives go to work every day and to church on Sunday. They honor their civic duty by voting in every election, are actively involved in their communities, and often serve their country in the military. Religious conservatives have an unshakable faith in God and consequently a firm belief in the existence of good vs. evil. They teach their children right from wrong and hold them accountable for their actions.

Does that sound like dangerous behavior? To me, it’s quite comforting to know that the heart and soul of the principles upon which our country was built are reasserting themselves through, of all things, the will of the people. But to Rauch and his ilk, these concepts are terrifying. Adrift in a cesspool of moral relativism, the left refuses to admit even the reality of right and wrong, let alone its legitimacy. To protect their world view, left wingers never miss an opportunity to minimize and dismiss the power of right by equating it with mindless fanaticism.

To answer Hugh’s questions, what does this say about the author? The message I get is that he is uncomfortable thinking beyond the extreme stereotypes of religious conservatives. Entertaining the possibility that religious people may have it right is inconceivable to him. Mired in his personal liberal agenda, Rauch finds menacing the fact that people of faith are an influential demographic in America. Thus threatened, he attacks. By using the examples of Vietnam and civil rights issues of the ‘60s to make his case, Rauch denies the differences inherent in the increasing impact of today’s religious conservatives. Despite the controversies it ignited, the Vietnam War did not threaten the moral fiber of our country. The civil rights movement succeeded in large part due to people of faith, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., not in spite of them. Today’s call by religious conservatives to be heard and respected, openly and equally as the secular left has been for decades, is their birthright. Freedom isn’t restricted to the left.

What does the article tell us about the Atlantic? A tired dinosaur of old media, the publication staggers down the well-worn path of liberal party lines, oblivious to the fact that the road has been sealed off by millions of those “tame centrists” on the right.

What does this say about the left’s understanding of Christian culture in America? Such a charitable question, for it allows that the left grasps the grass roots vibrancy of Christianity in today’s United States. If Rauch’s article is any indication, the left is far from comprehending the intelligence, the commitment, and of course the faith of the religious right. I would advise those on the left who seek religious conservatives responsible for disturbing their “social peace” to look not for wild-eyed fanatics who “bomb abortion clinics.” Look instead to your longtime neighbor who shares your garden fence, loans you his tools on Saturday afternoon, and says his bedtime prayers each night.