Sullivan writes in the Washington Monthly:
Nationally, and in states like Alabama, the GOP cannot afford to allow Democrats a victory on anything that might be perceived as benefiting people of faith. Republican political dominance depends on being able to manipulate religious supporters with fear, painting the Democratic Party as hostile to religion and in the thrall of secular humanists. That image would take quite a blow if the party of Nancy Pelosi was responsible for bringing back Bible classes—even constitutional ones—to public schools.
Even constitutional ones? So, does Amy Sullivan recommend “bringing back Bible classes” no matter what kind of class it is — even a constitutional one, but not necessarily if an unconstitutional one will help the Democrats manipulate religious supporters with fear even better than the Republicans do?
A sign that Democratic leaders are beginning to get it is the plan—promoted by leaders such as Harry Reid and Hillary Clinton—to lower abortion rates by preventing unwanted pregnancies.
Right, because Democrats have never supported that before. I guess all those years of Democrats fighting for (and Republicans against) sex education classes in public schools occurred in some alternate universe.
Full-throated support of this effort, and a recognition that abstinence education plays a role in lowering teen pregnancy rates (along with birth control), puts Democrats alongside the majority of voters on this difficult issue...
Amy Sullivan doesn’t respect her readers if she doesn’t think that they won’t realize that the debates aren’t over teaching abstinence, but about teaching abstinence only. Evangelicals want abstinence-only programs because they think that teaching kids about contraceptives will encourage sexual activity.
Then again, maybe Amy Sullivan is merely clueless...
And because evangelicals generally don’t have the same opposition to contraception that Catholics do, Democrats can promote the kind of plan that would truly reduce abortions, something Republicans—with their reliance on right-wing Catholics—can’t afford to do.
Yes, I think that perhaps Sullivan is clueless about what’s going on with evangelicals — a curious situation for someone who has, in the past, berated others in the media for misunderstanding and misrepresenting people’s religious beliefs. It’s true that Protestants traditionally haven’t opposed contraception in the same way that Catholics have, but anyone who has been paying attention has noticed that this has been changing. Evangelical opposition to contraception has been growing — and they have long been absolutely steadfast in their opposition to teaching about contraceptive use in schools.
There is also the fact that Amy Sullivan never considers the possibility that perhaps the Republican reliance on the Christian Right isn’t as great or fundamental as her article assumes.
For 30 years, the Republican advantage among religious voters has come from being able to successfully control the definition of “religious,” conflating it with “conservative” and encouraging the media to do the same.
This much is true, and it’s appropriate for Amy Sullivan to want to find ways to get around this — but that won’t be appropriately achieved by having the Democrats abandon secularism or church/state separation.
Kevin Drum responds:
Religion has been a big topic in liberal circles for a while now, and I have to admit that I always feel a bit like a bystander when the subject comes up. It’s not like I can fake being religious, after all. Still, no one is really asking people like me to do much of anything except stay quiet, refrain from insulting religion qua religion in ways that would make people like Brinson unwilling to work with us, and let other people do the heavy lifting when it comes to persuading moderate Christians to support liberal causes and liberal candidates. That’s not much to ask, and Amy makes a pretty good case that it would make a difference.
PZ Myers recognizes what this means: dhimmitude.
Yes, Mr Drum, that’s correct: we freethinkers are being asked to sit down and shut up and stay away from politics, and allow the evangelicals to shape the party. Let’s let both political parties be vocally religious and give up the whole idea of a secular America.
Not much to ask, huh?
How about we re-phrase Kevin Drum’s suggested terms of surrender:
Islam has been a big topic in liberal circles for a while now, and I have to admit that I always feel a bit like a bystander when the subject comes up. It’s not like I can fake being Muslim, after all. Still, no one is really asking people like me to do much of anything except stay quiet, refrain from insulting Islam in ways that would make Muslims unwilling to work with us, and let other people do the heavy lifting when it comes to persuading moderate Muslims to support us. That’s not much to ask, and Amy makes a pretty good case that it would make a difference.
Does this sound like a good idea? Should nonbelievers, skeptics, and atheists simply sit down and shut up lest the poor, sensitive Christians feel offended that anyone would dare challenge or criticize their beliefs? No — not in any way, shape, or form. Let us remember that the Christians in question are not just putting their beliefs out into the public, but they are also trying to convert others to their beliefs and trying to argue that their beliefs should be more deeply integrated into the government.
Here come Amy Sullivan and Kevin Drum to say that some of those Christians might be willing to vote for Democrats and, in order to avoid scaring them off, atheists and skeptics should avoid criticizing, challenging, or even talking about those beliefs. These aren’t private, personal beliefs but beliefs that are being used in the public, political arena — and we’re supposed to just shut up about them because we might offend someone.
That’s a demand for Christian Supremacy: for Christianity to be a privileged ideology which maintains social, cultural, and political power in part because it is kept immune from criticism or challenge. So long as people are prevented from talking about how the emperor has no clothes, the emperor retains power and authority over the sheep who meekly submit. The truth is that we need people who are willing to speak out of turn, willing to be impolite, and willing to rudely challenge those in power.
Christianity isn’t an oppressed minority; Christianity is an ideology which has been behind every unjust tradition and power structure that this nation has ever experienced. Christianity doesn’t need to be pandered to, it needs to be challenged, questioned, stood up to, and even mocked at times. Christians who don’t get that can’t be attracted to a political party in order to be part of the solution — they are still part of the problem because they still think that their religion merits special deference and privileges.
Pandering to that attitude in order to attract their political support is like pandering to white racists in order to attract their political support for a program to end racism. Does that makes sense? Of course not. A political party that wants to end privileges for whites has to first convince whites that their privileges are unjust and should never have existed — only then will their support be positive and productive. Similarly, many Christians need to be convinced that the privileges and deference which have traditionally been accorded to Christianity was never just and shouldn’t continue.
Amy? Kevin? Stop trying to “help” the Democrats — you’ll do more harm than good. It is too much to ask to simply sit down and shut up — that's what's expected from subservient, second-class citizens. I'm not a second-class citizen. I'm not a dhimmi in a Christian State. I won't refrain from criticizing, challenging, questioning, and even at times mocking Christianity or Christian beliefs merely because it might offend someone. Anyone who says I should is part of the problem, not offering a solution.
Quick Poll: Should skeptics and atheists be quiet and stop criticizing Christians so as to make Christians feel more comfortable?
- Yes, atheists have an obligation not to rock the boat or offend Christians in America.
- Sometimes, maybe - philosophical criticism can be OK, but no disrespectful satire or mocking.
- Not at all - Christians deserves no special privileges or deference over any other belief systems.
- I don't know.
- I don't care.
Christian Right & Christian Nationalism:
- Religious Right News
- Adolf Hitler, Nazi Germany, and Christian Nationalism
- Christian Anti-Semitism, Persecution of Jews
- Religious Intolerance & Bigotry
- Christianism & Christian Nationalism
- Christian Identity, White Supremacy, Christian Supremacy
- Confederate Southern Nationalism & Christianity
- Religion in America
Christian Nationalism & Dominion Theology:
- Dominionism & Dominion Theology
- Christian Reconstructionism
- Leading Christian Reconstructionists
- Reconstructionism & Christian Right: Common Goals, Beliefs
Christian Right Issues & Agenda:
- Religious Privilege
- Christian Privilege
- Christian Supremacy
- How the Christian Right Undermines the Right to Abortion
- Why The Christian Right is Wrong About Abortion
- Pro-Life Inconsistencies on Abortion
- Christian Right vs. Birth Control
- Christian Right vs. Emergency Contraception
- Evangelical Christianity & Homosexuality