God Love Ross Douthat

…and all practitioners of plain speech who dare to speak truth to power:

It may seem strange that anyone could look around the pornography-saturated, fertility-challenged, family-breakdown-plagued West and see a society menaced by a repressive puritanism. But it’s clear that this perspective is widely and sincerely held.

It would be refreshing, though, if it were expressed honestly, without the “of course we respect religious freedom” facade.

If you want to fine Catholic hospitals for following Catholic teaching, or prevent Jewish parents from circumcising their sons, or ban Chick-fil-A in Boston, then don’t tell religious people that you respect our freedoms. Say what you really think: that the exercise of our religion threatens all that’s good and decent, and that you’re going to use the levers of power to bend us to your will.

The Republican elite’s secret weapon is that compared to the Left’s open and naked hostility to religious believers, benign neglect and disinterest is vastly preferable. One of Romney’s aces in the hole is that the Left may not be able to restrain its idiotic persecuting contempt for, you know, the overwhelming majority of Americans. Romney may luck out if the anti-Judeo Christian fascists refuse to learn from the Chik-Fil-A effect and cannot bring themselves to restrain their naked hatred and intolerance.

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  • Keith Strohm

    This is an incredible article!!!! 🙂 Thanks for posting, Mark. I’ve shared it on my Facebook Wall, so I can’t wait for my more liberal friends to pounce. It’s definitely a discussion starter. 🙂

  • Andy

    I am not sure I agree about the republican “benign neglect and disinterest” as preferable. Open hostility though not easily defeated is at least easily spotted and enemies are identifiable. Benign neglect is like swimming in mud – it makes you dirty and is really hard to move through. It is the benign neglect that keeps the republicans moving forward along with the democrats to a corporate takeover of the US.
    Listening to Romney today – although you may be right about the possibility he announced today on his charm tour in the Middle Eat that it was the Jewish Culture that allowed the Jewish people to do well financially.
    As someone who would be considered more liberal than many who post here I am not going to pounce. I think that Douthat provides an excellent distinction between freedom of worship and free exercise. I just think that he puts to much emphasis on what the current administration is doing, and does not examine what both sides tend to do – use religion for their own ends.

    • I grew up in a church where, as a child, people would occasionally fall silent because I’d wandered near as they were discussing how to smuggle support in to our martyr Church back in the old country. I was just too young to be burdened with that sort of thing. Trust me when I say, benign neglect is highly preferable to active opposition.

      Corporatist Republicans are not a manifestation of benign neglect. They are malevolent enemies of our economic freedoms. It is important to fight against that strand in whatever party you find yourself in. Pay attention to anti-corporatist legislation. There are a group of Congressmen who regularly propose anti-corporatist legislation. They lose most of the time but they’re doing better last I checked. The party makeup on the votes for anti-corporatist legislation tend to be 2/3 GOP and 1/3 Democrat.

  • “Say what you really think: that the exercise of our religion threatens all that’s good and decent, and that you’re going to use the levers of power to bend us to your will.” That’s exactly what many atheists in the internet *are* saying.

    • MarylandBill

      Yes, there are many atheists online that are saying that, but the ones who are saying that publicly really have little overt say in the shaping policy. They are a tiny minority of America’s population (Whether they realize it or not) and politicians, even ones who agree with them, know it.

      • Ted Seeber

        Who needs democracy when you have the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the court system?

  • Irenist

    With his book “Bad Religion” and columns like this, Douthat is the one op-ed pundit for whom I am actually grateful. And surprisingly often.

    BTW: I have in the past objected to the whole “gay brownshirts” terminology. I still think it’s ultimately unhelpful. But dang if Boston’s Mayor Menino’s wanting to ban Chik-Fil-A for its owners’ personal views doesn’t make one sorely, sorely tempted to reach for hyperbolic language about fascists and Stalinists.

    These people have won astonishingly quick victories thanks to the alignment between gay marriage rhetoric and the individual rights rhetoric that has been at the core of Americans’ political instincts since Jefferson, but once they let their hubris at those victories lead them into infringing rights of private business owners, they’re beginning to run into more sustained backlash.

    It’s similar to the dynamic with contraception: American political culture supports legal contraception as a right, but the arrogant apparatchiks at Sebelius’ HHS failed to see that Americans would not support contraception as a rights-crushing mandate. More importantly, as the pro-life movement has smartly adopted a focus on the rights of the unborn to life, the pro-choice movement has been unable to stop gay-marriage-supporting young people from beginning to oppose abortion.

    I would prefer a public discourse based on duties rather than rights (I think it’s ultimately a more radically Christian and yet more Tory conservative approach), but in the Lockean creedal nationalism that is American political thought, the side that can make a convincing case to be the little guy whose “rights” are being trampled will always, always win, hence the success in recent decadent decades of both G.O.P. corporate deregulation and Democratic libertinism; where the parties have asked for duties (to the family, to the poor), they have failed.

  • ivan_the_mad

    “where the parties have asked for duties (to the family, to the poor), they have failed.” YES, to the whole thing, but this in particular. Kirk wrote about this somewhere in the first fifty pages of The Conservative mind where he’s talking about Burke, that rights have attendant duties and obligations.

    • ivan_the_mad

      Why can I not work the reply buttons correctly today? This is a response to Irenist immediately above.

      • Irenist

        Thanks for the kudos, Ivan the Mad. Your response reminded me that I’ve been irritated with myself for ages for not having gotten around to reading any Kirk yet. So I opened an Amazon tab, and lo, much of his stuff is finally available in Kindle format. A few downloads later, and my week off between taking the bar and starting my clerkship just got a whole lot better!

  • Franciscan

    Yes – I saw this. I very much appreciate Douthat’s work and approach. I saw him on Bill Maher’s show some time ago dealing with the issue of atheism, and even Maher was respectful of him — that’s really saying something.

  • Consistency

    Does anyone notice a bit of incongruity in the fact that the people fighting to prevent circumcision are the same ones supporting the right to crush the same child’s skull just 24 hours earlier?

    • Faith

      Yes, this is something I’ve noticed too. I can’t wrap my mind around their thinking!

  • Ted Seeber

    Here’s my real response, and I’ll post it twice- I wrote it privately to one of my brother Knights who was complaining about a message I had forwarded from our State Pro-Life Chairman:

    And one more reply, but this is more private and comes from this blog posting:

    There is something to the argument that it is very hard for some of us in my generation particularly to look at the mess of broken homes, genocidal abortion, sexually transmitted diseases, and old people dying alone and in fear; and say that the sexual revolution actually accomplished any good at all.

    Likewise, just two blog postings on Mark Shea’s blog earlier:

    There is also something to the argument that it is very hard for some of us in my generation particularly to look at the sky high corporate profits in the face of foreclosures, unemployment, underemployment and a general economic depression and say that the deregulation of global markets was a good thing.

    What do you call a civilization that has lost all ethics, morality, and values? BARBARIC!

    But that’s why I fight hard against my *real* impulse to use my position as Grand Knight as a bully pulpit for my personal political values. Coming from the State, or stuff that the Knights are already involved in, is fine. Me imposing my values upon my brothers in the John Clare council is NOT. Especially since, from my point of view, all I see is a civilization in unavoidable collapse- with our only real hope being mutual aid societies and monastic communities to defend and preserve the last vestiges of civilization and the cardinal virtues against the coming darkness.