No doubt all the young people who asked questions of the candidates for the Democratic nomination over the course of Chris Matthews' College Tour stayed up nights thinking of devilish queries.
The really tough questions that might be asked of the candidates never are posed, however, because they are philosophical and religious in nature. Even after 9/11 most still want to avoid theology at all costs. These questions are highly threatening, because they confront the fault lines cleaving American society. Mass media pundits wonder aloud why we live in such a divided nation, with so much anger on each side. But they don't really want to ask the questions that explain the division.
The answer is already in the air, though. Everyone understands that it has to do with the “culture war.” Bill O'Reilly speaks of the “traditionalists” versus the “secularists.” When interviewed by O'Reilly, Stanley Greenberg, author of Two Americas, tried to be a little more direct, pointing out that the division corresponded to peoples' differing faiths.
Recently on 60 Minutes, Gary Bauer confronted the gentlemanly reporter Morley Safer with the hard facts that that those who go to church regularly overwhelmingly vote Republican; those who don't, vote Democrat. Ann Coulter, drawing on a study by the Pew Center, reported on what we all know but won't say: if you are white and a church-goer, you vote Republican.
The tough but never-asked questions that divide this country are the basic questions of worldview.
1) Do you believe a personal God created the universe? This is the question of cosmology. How did the universe come into being? Is everything here by way of a cosmic accident or is what exists the product of an intentional act?
That question may seem abstruse for a political discussion, but it is the underlying question about everything from gay marriage to abortion to stem-cell research.
If creation is the product of an intentional act by God, then society ought to insure that its institutions reflect God's intentions. If God made men and women for each other, then society would do well to restrict marriage to heterosexual unions. If, on the other hand, the universe came about by chance and the division of the sexes is merely an evolutionary phenomenon, then societies might well choose to institutionalize cultural overrides of biology such as gay marriage.
The other tough questions flow from the first:
2) Do you believe in the reality of evil?
3) If so, what is it cause? Is God responsible or is humankind?
3) What is the nature of the human person? Is he or she a creature made in God's image or another chance phenomenon of a self-contained universe?
Today, the overwhelming majority of Republicans still believe in the explicit theology of the Declaration of Independence; they believe in “Nature and Nature's God.” America was founded during a time when Enlightenment thinkers and Christians alike the two most important philosophic groups in 18th-century America believed in a created order. God had brought the world into being by an intentional act and the institutions of government and society should reflect that order. Deists and Christians only differed about God's continued involvement in human affairs, not God's role in creation.
The majority of Democrats no longer believe in a created order. They believe that humanity itself creates whatever order it enjoys, culturally and politically, and should respond to new social realities the emergence of politically powerful interest groups such as the gay community by accommodating their interests. That's what democracies do. They extend rights to constituents. Republicans counter that rights are God-given.
I suspect that most Democrats find this a sentimentality. They usually respond to the God-given rights arguments by finding fault with the founders' consistency in extending rights to African-Americans and women as if inconsistency in application disproved principle.
I was listening to John Kerry earlier this month. He was making good points about our problematic relationship with Pakistan and the threat their nuclear weapons pose. I enjoyed listening to him. I would enjoy considering the prospect of voting for him. When the Democratic candidates speak about the needs of the poor, how America's social services health, education, etc. could be improved, I find myself engaged as well. Catholic social teaching is no friend of libertarianism. The Church teaches us that the free hand of the marketplace can be guided toward theft on a socially devastating scale-as the recent corporate scandals underline.
For me and others like me, however, this presidential election and every election for the foreseeable future is over before it begins. Because I believe in a created order, the realty of evil, and that the human person is made in God's image, I cannot possibly vote for a Democrat.
Despite the Catholic baptisms and Catholic college educations of many Democratic politicians, those who run the Democratic party and their most ardent supporters by and large answer the toughest questions humanity faces with secular answers. They do not believe in a created order or if they do, they have no sense of the logical implications of such beliefs. They seem to believe that evil is only a structural phenomenon, not a personal one as well. They have embraced the state as the source of human rights rather than their administrator.
Joe Lieberman's failed candidacy makes clear that there is virtually no place today for people with a consistent Jewish or Christian faith in the Democratic party. The old Democratic-Catholic alliance has totally broken down, because Democrats have committed themselves to godless philosophical models.
Harold Fickett is a columnist for www.godspy.com.
This article courtesy of Catholic Citizens.org.