I should address a point made by Ross Douthat about the intersection of religion and politics. Ross equates what the Republican party has been doing for some time with the civil rights movement. He argues that just as the civil rights movement was inspired by faith, so too is the religious tenor of the current GOP. Surely, you can't praise one and dismiss the other? Here's what I'd say. The civil rights movement was indeed a fundamentally religious phenomenon, and you cannot understand it without understanding that. It was also multi-denominational and included Democrats and Republicans. Its core religious principle was non-violence, and it drew enormous inspiration from Gandhi. It included Jews and Muslims, Catholics and Protestants, atheists and agnostics. And it never, in King's time, became a vehicle for one political party to win elections. Never. And in so far as it subsequently did, in so far as people like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton used religion to buttress a partisan machine, what was left of the civil rights movement lost moral authority. And deserved to.
There are surely many people in the pro-life movement who belong to the King tradition. They see the dignity of human life at stake and seek coalitions of all kinds to illustrate the morality of their cause. In so far as they do this, and do it with non-violence and in the spirit of Jesus and Gandhi and King, they will persuade people and help turn around the horror of mass abortion. But when they fuse themselves with a political party, and when that party's leadership uses those moral convictions to raise money and support candidates, and when those leaders also accuse people in the other party of being, in the words of the despicable Ann Coulter, "Godless," then they have relinquished any claim to that tradition. When someone like Hugh Hewitt argues for the God-given dignity of an unborn child, he earns my respect. When he then uses that to argue for destroying the Democratic party and supporting the GOP, he loses my respect. There is a critical line here. And today's Republican leaders have crossed it.
No one expects people's politics to be unaffected by their faith. My own faith has propelled me to advance the cause of the dignity and equality of gay people as children of God. But I have never argued that one political party can represent this moral cause, and have always told Democrats to their faces that they cannot and must not coopt this cause, and told the gay movement to its face that it cannot and must not conflate itself with one party. Similarly, with the issue of torture. For me, it is impossible to separate my own revulsion at this practice without acknowledging that my faith informs it. But I also know that many good people who do not share my faith oppose it; and do so for their own reasons. I also know that people who believe there is no God have been among those most dedicated to exposing and stopping torture. I can also honestly say that if a Democratic president had done what this president has done, I would have written as passionately against the categorical evil of torture as I have with Bush. The principle matters. Not the party. And what we have seen in this country these past few years is nothing less than an attempt by one party to coopt Christianity. That is what so many of us are opposed to. It is wrong. Listen to Tom DeLay:
"Sides are being chosen, and the future of man hangs in the balance! The enemies of virtue may be on the march, but they have not won, and if we put our trust in Christ, they never will ... It is for us then to do as our heroes have always done and put our faith in the perfect redeeming love of Jesus Christ."
The context of those remarks are about the importance of supporting the Republican party, and the validity of Mr DeLay's career. In that respect, they are utterly disgraceful remarks, and they should have been condemned by Christians of all kinds everywhere. Equating them with the inclusive, non-partisan, social movement of Martin Luther King Jr is as absurd as it is obscene.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com.