Monday, March 28, 2005

The Religious Right. Characterized

Digby, Jarvis and Hewitt have a nice confluence of posts...which also "conflows" with a discussion I had yesterday over "spirituality" from a self-described skeptic/atheist/rationalist.

Hewitt, in particular, would like to know:

Who is a theocrat/theocon? Anyone who's politics are informed by their faith? Catholics adhering to their Church's teachings and voting that way?...

Hewitt goes on:

What Jeff [Jarvis] has done in his essay --something Andrew Sullivan does often-- is attempt to delegitimize a series of political positions without arguing the merits of those positions, but rather by asserting that the people who hold them --people he does not identify-- are fanatics and dangerous as well as powerful. It is a useful exercise to run through Jeff's piece and substitute "the Jews" for the "religious right" and all pronounces referring to the "religious right." Jeff is of course not anti-Semitic, but he has fallen into the trap of arguing from rhetoric that brands a shadowy minority as powerful beyond their numbers and thus in need of marginalization. It hasn't worked and cannot work because the center-right coalition agrees on 90% of the agenda,...

Many e-mailers have tried to define "the religious right" thus far this morning, but their definitions are either ad hominem attacks or way too broad

I can cite two criteria for characterizing the "religious right," and I'm afraid that Hewitt will have to accept the fact that it does, indeed, involve moral failings on their part. It may peeve him, but my understanding of Christian Scripture indicates that the religious conservatives of ancient Judea were peeved by Jesus Christ, as well. Anyway, here are the two criteria:

1. Members of the "religious right" tend to ignore the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon on the Plain, or, if they are Jewish, ignore Hillel. They tend to emphasize Old Testament passages that indicate an angry, vengeful, jealous deity, and tend to exhibit an enjoyment and identification with this angry, vengeful, jealous deity. Again, I would submit this has to do with the fact that, at least on the part of "conservative Christians" (an oxymoron, actually) are actually quite uncomfortable with the notion of Jesus, for reasons outlined above. I'd also note that this identification with anger, revenge, etc. is often directed at those who want to preserve democratic institutions, civil liberties, and religious as well as non-religious pluralism in this country. Focus on the Family is a prime example of this; regarding the recent decision in Colorado overturning a death sentence apparently based on "Old Testament" justice, FOTF said:

"Today's ruling further confirms that the judicial branch of our government is nearly bereft of any moral foundation," said Tom Minnery, the group's vice president for government and public policy.

2. This second part is particularly important, and a useful razor for determining who might be a member of the "religious right" and who might not: members of the religious right share in common this aspect of the "New Age" movement (see here and here): they actually don't get that 99%+ of what they tell themselves is usually bullshit (sorry if that offends your sensibilities, Hugh) and thereby tend to exhibit a greater degree of narcissism and a certain lack of humility than they would otherwise. This last part is pretty key; we can see it in Hewitt's lame assertion above that somehow he's a member of a "center-right" coalition, despite the fact that in all the biased reporting over the Schiavo case (e.g., every day Aaron Brown on CNN leads off with an interview of the Schindler family), 80+% of Americans understand Michael Schiavo's point of view. And at the same time, Hewitt's own post belies any notion that he accepts critics' positions as in any way as legit.

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