Any Sullivan: What would Falwell do?
I remember the Sixties, though I wasn't old enough to drive. I remember the Brothers Berrigan and Bishop Pike and any number of hip young clerics with hair over their collars who spoke about love and peace and occasionally took a hit off the number that was going around. And I knew my history, knew that religious people in America were on the frontlines of all the fights over social justice. I knew parochial schools rose up in response to Protestant domination of public education.
I had no objection in principle to Amy's guest sermons on the election at Kevin's place. I thought she followed the script instead of the facts, and, especially after the whole "moral values" post-mortem, became rather shrill and tiresome. But then so did a lot of people who were proposing to toss women's rights onto the sacrificial altar on the grounds this would somehow turn that damned map blue.
Her Salon piece, ostensibly, squints down the other end of the telescope. And I'm happy to listen. At least once during the campaign I tossed a comment into Kevin's bottomless well to the effect that perhaps the centrist and liberal churches needed to answer for allowing the Falwells and Robertsons to seize the public debate. Because they've treated the rise of religious bigotry as if it were a slight social faux pas at tea. The horrendous rightward slant of television news from the late 70s on could have found an effective opposition in clerical garb. Religion occupies as protected space in this land. It's easy for teevee news to stack the deck against liberal politicians. They couldn't have gotten away with that when it came to religious voices. There's been no shortage of Catholic priests intoning on abortion over the past thirty years, and they sure found air space to denounce John Kerry. Where were the opposing voices? Is it teevee's fault, or religion's?
Oh, Sullivan can't miss her little digs at Kerry, who with the passage of time is now "too timid" and unwilling to bring up religion in front of non-ethnic audiences, instead of hiding altogether as she once told it. The Democratic party "ghettoized" religion. And, of course, the religious left has been hampered by its association with the secular left and it's baby-seal hugging and Third World poverty protesting that lacks all Biblical reference. But, again, where were those voices to begin with? I've got no objection to the religious imagery of Al Sharpton. I'm sure not going to change my position on the Kyoto Treaty just because someone else says Jesus would have voted for it. Welcome aboard. And at the end of the day, I don't care if you oppose abortion rights. What I object to is the idea that there's no distinction made between the abortion and the rights. Just come out and acknowledge that your beliefs include birth control as well, and we can have all the debate within the party that you'd like.
Unfortunately it just seems impossible for someone like Sullivan to grant the distinction between the sacred and the profane and to admit that while politics may be informed by the former it belongs to the latter. There's no mention in her article of the effects of John Paul II's war on liberation theology and his ordering priests out of politics (which cost us the voice of Father Drinan). Even the right gets the touch o' whitewash: "A series of Supreme Court decisions taking prayer and Bible reading out of schools, and culminating with Roe vs. Wade -- as well as, it must be noted, some civil rights victories in the South -- angered conservative evangelicals...." Civil rights is a parenthetical? We're going to regain momentum by granting the Relgious Right it's objection to religion-neutral public education, but abide by a gentleman's agreement not to touch its segregationist roots? Does the Right offer up that sort of politesse?