Monday, March 13, 2006

Paging the Anti-Religious Elite

Over at The Washington Monthly, guest blogger Steven Waldman frets about the supposed anti-religious hostility of liberals. He says he was about to apologize for describing this tendency with too sweeping a brush, but changed his mind after reading this quotation from Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun magazine:

Overwhelmingly, the white activists who shaped the Left of the 1960s have remained mired in a culture of hostility toward religion and spirituality. If this were merely a historical curiosity, I'd leave this issue to the cultural historians. But since the Left's hostility to religion and spirituality has become such a major stumbling block to the chances that progressive forces will ever win enough power to actually change the socially and environmentally destructive policies of the West, it becomes important to explore the roots of this hostility.

I don't know what makes Lerner the definitive expert on the American left. But I'd take even stronger exception to Waldman's final comment:

I think a distinction should be made between the elites and the rank and file on this. The fact is that most Democrats are religious. But secular liberals, who made up about 16% of the Kerry vote . . . seem to have a disproportionate impact on the party's image and approach.

Says who? The fact is that the vast majority of members of any meaningful "elite" group in this country--including virtually all Democratic politicians, party leaders, and activitists--make a point of behaving with respect or deference toward religion, even if they themselves are not religious. I'd love to see citations of any actual "anti-religious" comments uttered by anyone with meaningful influence in Democratic circles. (Obscure academics and spokespersons for small, little-known advocacy groups don't count.)

Actually, Waldman is right when he says that the militantly secular have a disproportionate impact on the party's image. But that's not because they have any real impact on its approach. It's because of decades of phony propaganda by the right, which likes to pretend that defending religious pluaralism and state-church separation is tantamount to being "anti-Christian."

As a liberal Democrat--who also happens to be religious--I'm tired of seeing Democrats issue public apologies for political sins we actually haven't been committing.

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