It’s a fascinating time in American history, religion and politics. I recently wrote that it’s time for my liberal and moderate friends “to get hard.” I made the case that in fact, because of our inattention and our tendency to compromise that we have lost on nearly every social and political agenda of importance: increasing social inequality; larger military budgets; more weapons on the street; a stalled immigration reform; endless money in our politics, and now, with one piece of success, the Affordable Care Act, Republicans have threatened to cause a global economic disaster to stall this one feeble victory for Democrats.
But maybe I misinterpreted a few things. I’ve been reading and analyzing a recent piece of research that looked at the main constituencies within the Republican Party: the Tea Party, Republican libertarians, and Evangelicals, and the overwhelming finding from this quite thorough and unbiased study was that Evangelicals, in particular, feel that the country has been lost; their notion of faith has been destroyed; they see in the Tea Party a group that is, at least, willing to put up a fight for their values and principles.
For Evangelicals, the Republican Party has failed them in almost every way. They have given in on gay marriage and rights for gay people in America; abortion continues apace; they have been defeated by a Democratic Party that is “expanding dependency” at a record rate and winning a plurality of the electorate. They have been defeated by a “slick, lying, socialist” in Barack Obama; their country, as they know it, is disappearing, with the white population shrinking and minorities now becoming the majority. The Christian country, which they loved and defended and worked for, is dying before their eyes, and the Republicans do nothing but give in over and over again.
Now, I know my liberal, progressive and moderate friends have just thrown up a little in their mouths. I say, hold on. Think about the other side. We all pride ourselves on being understanding and big hearted, and being willing to listen to the other side, well, THIS is the other side. These are Americans who, in general, have fought for this country, died for this country, and often have done much of the dirty work for the liberal “creative class” who generally doesn’t go to war, or work in the manufacturing sections of the American workforce. Our Republican friends want an America where hard work is recognized and dependency on government is frowned upon; a country in which family values are admired and upheld and children are raised to do what is right and good.
We all might have very different views on what’s right and good. But Evangelicals are an American population that deserves a voice. And that’s the point; they feel that they have LOST THEIR VOICE AND LOST THEIR COUNTRY. So, in a strange sense, liberals and conservatives are in the same boat, both feeling that something has been lost.
Let me give you one more example. In a new article about the U.S. Military—it was reported that in a training meeting, officials for the U.S. Military argued that the American Family Association should be considered a “domestic hate group.” A hate group because it takes a stand against homosexual behavior; it was said that the AFA should be filed along side the Ku Klux Klan and neo-nazis.
Many progressives may say, “Amen, thank God for the U.S. Military.” But imagine how this sits with American Evangelicals, who truly believe in America, in its causes and in their belief that homosexual behavior is “abhorrent” and not what is “intended” for their families. It really is a time of defeat and devastation for them.
Now, as I’ve written on my blog, I am for equal rights for the LGBT community and I’ve worked through what I called my “prejudices” toward these folks. But shouldn’t we, as liberal, progressives and moderates, understand people who are different from us? Shouldn’t we be somewhat understanding of a large swath of this country that feels like they have “lost” their country?
In this way liberals and conservatives are in the same camp, we both feel like we’ve been defeated. I’m really not sure what this means. But at some level, maybe its time in the aftermath of this terrible episode in American history, to sit back and say, “Okay, these folks, on some level, aren’t that different than you and me. Neither of us is getting what we want. We don’t have to agree but we also don’t have to hate one another and we don’t have to destroy a country because of our disagreements.”
So I’m calling for a sense of empathy and compassion. Don’t get me wrong, I’m for tough debate; and I do believe in my more progressive principles and I won’t back down. But I have tried to walk in the moccasins of those on the other side. It’s not fun to lose, I know that existentially. So, maybe, just maybe, we can love one another even as fight for what we believe.