Curiouser and Curiouser

As Alice, exploring Wonderland, put it, things get “curiouser and curiouser.” I don’t know what motivates politicians like John Kerry and Howard Dean and New York Times columnists Maureen Dowd and Paul Krugman.

Maybe they are being deliberately dishonest in a Machiavellian attempt to dislodge the Republicans from power. Or maybe they are so blinded by ideological enthusiasm that they are unaware of the double standard they are employing in regard to America’s Christians. It has to be one or the other. If the issue were not so serious, what they are saying and writing would be worthy of a horse-laugh.

In a recent column, Dowd reacted to the effort to save Terri Schiavo’s life by exclaiming, “Oh, my God, we really are in a theocracy.” Dowd reprimanded Christians who organized for Schiavo with the observation that “a person’s relationship with God should remain a private matter.” She compared conservative American Christians to Muslim “religious fundamentalists” in Iraq. Krugman jumped into the fray by comparing conservative Christians to the “religious extremists” in Israel who “have already killed one prime minister.” He warned that “unless moderates take a stand against the growing power of domestic extremists, the same thing can happen here.” Egads…

Democratic Party National Chairman Howard Dean was not to be outdone on this topic. He told Tim Russert on May 22nd on Meet the Press that it “galls him to be lectured about moral values” by conservative Republicans and that he would “not put up with those who cast aspersions on his Christianity.” John Kerry chimed in, recently telling reporters he was “sick and tired of a bunch of people trying to tell me that God wants a bunch of conservative judges on the Supreme Court.”

So let me get this straight: According to the secular liberals, Christians are wrong to bring their values into the public arena. They are not to seek to shape public policy in a manner that reflects their beliefs, which are a “private matter” between the individual and God. That is why we are told it is improper to seek laws that prohibit abortion or refuse to recognize homosexual marriage; why it is wrong for us to resist efforts to remove prayer from the schools or copies of the Ten Commandments from public buildings.

Okay. But watch what happens. Without skipping a beat, Dowd, Kerry and Dean, proceed to inform us that their policies are “more Christian” than those of conservatives. (Krugman, not being a Christian, does not take that step. He is content to bash conservative Christians for their extremism.) I am not exaggerating for emphasis. Kerry, Dean and Dowd point proudly to the social welfare policies of the Democratic Party as expressions of Christ’s command to love the least of our brethren. The use the words of Pope John Paul II to attack the Bush administration’s handling of the war in Iraq. I guess some religious beliefs have to be kept more private than others.

They accuse free-market Republicans of harboring a disdain for the needs of the poor and the elderly. They castigate George Bush for seeking to line the pockets of big money men on Wall Street at the expense of the “working poor” with his plan for private Social Security accounts. They accuse Republicans who oppose affirmative action programs of “racism.” They call “homophobes” those who seek to preserve the centuries-old understanding of marriage as a union between one man and one woman. In recent speeches, Dean stated that he “hates Republicans and what they stand for” and that Democrats are engaged in a “struggle between good and evil” in their efforts against the GOP.

In fact, Dean has launched an effort to combat what he calls the Republican “smear campaign” to portray the Democratic Party as deficient on moral issues. He takes the position that the Democratic Party is more committed to morality than the Republicans, because it sponsors programs designed to care for the poor, minorities and the elderly. For as long as I can remember, liberal Democrats have sought the public support of Christian clergymen in campaigns to end segregation and promote voting rights for minorities, to end the arms race and the war in Vietnam, and to protect the environment. Members of the clergy get treated with respect from liberal politicians and the media when they engage in public demonstrations to end capital punishment. You don’t hear any howls of protest about our being a “theocracy” when members of Pax Christi march each year outside the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, in protest against the US Army’s efforts to aid Latin American governments faced with Marxist revolutionary movements.

What am I missing? How does it work? Is it that it is admirable to refer to Christian values to garner support for the policies favored by liberal Democrats — big government wealth redistribution programs, affirmative action programs, and an end to the war in Iraq, for example — but “theocratic” and “extremist” when Christianity shapes your policy preferences on issues such as abortion, stem-cell research, and homosexual marriage? That doesn’t make sense.

Conservative Christians are citizens too. It would be a violation of the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of religion for Catholics to seek laws requiring everyone to say the rosary or go to Confession or for Southern Baptists to require that we all submit to baptism by full immersion. That would be the imposition of sectarian religious beliefs on non-believers. But that is not what is going on. Dowd and Dean and Kerry know that. Or they should.

It is not a violation of the First Amendment for Christians to work to protect human life or safeguard our societies’ understanding of marriage, any more than it is a violation of the First Amendment to give our support for laws against murder, theft and perjury because we take seriously the injunctions “Thou shalt not kill,” “Thou shalt not steal” and “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” Christians are under no obligation to limit our participation in the debate over public policy to those issues where it will lend support to the causes favored by the secular Left.

James Fitzpatrick's new novel, The Dead Sea Conspiracy: Teilhard de Chardin and the New American Church, is available from our online store. You can email Mr. Fitzpatrick at

(This article originally appeared in The Wanderer and is reprinted with permission. To subscribe call 651-224-5733.)

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