Bigotry And The Arch-Right
Peter Beinart's TNR article offers an excellent view on the hypocrisy of conservative evangelicals' current claims of supposed anti-Christrian bigotry by the left and how it is an attempt at debate-stifling self-victimization. Excerpts with emphasis added:
"One of the things that galled the right during the 'political correctness' wars was the way leftists casually threw around terms like 'racist' and 'bigot.' For conservatives, some of whom knew firsthand how much harm those accusations could cause, it became axiomatic that such pejoratives should be reserved for only the most egregious, clear-cut examples of racial or ethnic animus."
"That's how it seemed, anyhow. In recent weeks, prominent conservatives have been anything but scrupulous in charging Democrats with bigotry against people of faith. Just before the election, Christian Right leader James Dobson called Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy a 'God's people hater.' On November 8, talk-show host Joe Scarborough condemned 'Democrats who take solace in their bigoted anti-Christian screeds.' Right-wing pundit Michelle Malkin recently blurbed a book titled Persecution: How Liberals are Waging War Against Christianity, noting that 'Persecution exposes the hypocrisy and bigotry of the secular, anti-Christian Left.' And, last Sunday, Mary Matalin chimed in on 'Meet the Press,' claiming that 'people of faith, in the election process, they have been demonized and they have been treated with disdain and contempt.' Imagine if James Carville, who was seated next to her on the show, had made the same claim about African Americans (who, although they are one of the most religious groups in America, vote Democratic, and thus don't fall under Matalin's 'people of faith' rubric). Within 15 minutes, the conservative blogosphere would have accused him of politically correct demagoguery."
"But, most of the time, what conservatives call anti-evangelical bigotry is simply harsh criticism of the Christian Right's agenda. Scarborough seized on a recent column by Maureen Dowd, which accused President Bush of 'replacing science with religion, and facts with faith,' leading America into 'another dark age.' The Weekly Standard recently pilloried Thomas Friedman for criticizing 'Christian fundamentalists' who 'promote divisions and intolerance at home and abroad,' and Howell Raines, for saying the Christian Right wants to enact 'theologically based cultural norms.'
"This isn't bigotry. What these (and most other) liberals are saying is that the Christian Right sees politics through the prism of theology, and there's something dangerous in that. And they're right. It's fine if religion influences your moral values. But, when you make public arguments, you have to ground them--as much as possible--in reason and evidence, things that are accessible to people of different religions, or no religion at all. Otherwise, you can't persuade other people, and they can't persuade you. In a diverse democracy, there must be a common political language, and that language can't be theological."
"Identity politics is a powerful thing--a way of short-circuiting debate by claiming that your views aren't merely views; they are an integral part of who you are. And who you are must be respected. But harsh criticism is not disrespect--and to claim it is undermines democratic debate by denying opponents the right to aggressively, even impolitely, disagree. That is what conservatives are doing when they accuse liberals of religious bigotry merely for demanding that the Christian Right defend their viewpoints with facts, not faith. Once upon a time, conservatives knew better. I hope some still do."
New Donkey applies this to his ongoing argument against the idea that the only two choices for Dems are to "move right or move on," pointing out that "respect does not mean submission." Excerpt:
"I'll go Beinert one better: the Christian Right's effort to make 'respect' equal 'agreement' is even more deeply disrespectful to people who actually share their religion. I'm a Protestant Christian myself, and read the same Bible that James Dobson reads, and I see no evidence at all that the message (much less the primary message) of Scripture to the faithful of this time is to outlaw abortion and stigmatize gay people. So it really offends me to be told I'm an 'anti-Christian bigot' for disagreeing with the Christian Right on such subjects.
"It behooves Democrats to challenge Christian conservatives for playing identity politics and refusing to engage in civil discourse about the intersection of faith and policy, and to challenge themselves to reject the false choice of disrespect or submission."
Republicans have often accused Democrats of attempting to incite class warfare with claims such as John Edwards' that there are "two Americas," one for the privileged with all the perks available from our society, and one for the working and middle classes struggling to pay the bills. The real class warfare today, however, is being waged by the ultra-conservative evangelical right and the arsenal is made up of false claims of anti-Christian bigotry against anyone who disagrees with them. There is no disrepect inherent in disagreement and to claim otherwise goes against the fundamental principles of a society whose government was founded on open debate of the issues affecting it.
The ultra-conservative evangelical right continues to hold on to the selfish belief that they are the only legitimate Christians. To claim that the left is bigoted against Christians is to claim that it is largely bigoted against itself.