That disdain, however, is reserved for the PMs ideas — not for the people who hold them. Like many American evangelical and/or fundamentalist Christians, they seem like Very Nice People. I don't dislike them, but I strongly disagree with the unholy rot they've embraced in lieu of Christianity.
(The appropriate and accurate response to the poor souls tangled up in such rot is pity. If such pity strikes you as necessarily condescending or smug, then you may be forgetting that pity is also, primarily, an expression of love.)
There are several things I admire about the PMs — mostly on the "prairie" side of the ledger. They seem, for example, to have embraced the Mennonite critique of consumer culture. Bravo for that. I only wish they had gone the rest of the way and become Mennonites, adopting also their radical Anabaptist egalitarianism, their magnanimity, generosity (of wealth and of compassion) and their passion for justice.*
Like everyone else the Muffins are, of course, free to choose for themselves the components of their own faith. The problem is they want to go further than that.
I disagree with their "complementarian" understanding of gender roles, and with their corruption of scripture used to justify that view, but they're as free as Tom Cruise is to believe whatever they choose — even if it's insupportable nonsense. This is America and I am a liberal and as a liberal American I believe that everyone is free to choose whatever idiosyncratic alternative lifestyle they like.
But here is where the PMs cross the line, and what makes the Muffins worth remarking on. This is from our PM friend's blog:
I would remove women’s suffrage, and I might even consider making voting rights tied to property ownership.
Our friend is utterly free to choose to disenfranchise herself, but advocating the disenfranchisement of others is intolerable.**
This is precisely the point at which the Very Nice People of American evangelicaldom cease to be nice. They claim, rightly, that their own free exercise of religion gives them the right to swing their arm, but they don't believe this freedom should end where somebody else's nose begins.
Consider an analogy from the current — and lethal — dispute over religious freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan involving the compulsory wearing of beards and burkas.In America, you are free to decide that God (or L. Ron Hubbard, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster) wants you to wear a burka. Those of us with a more egalitarian view of gender roles are free to disagree with this choice,*** but we cannot compel you to stop wearing your burka. You have the freedom even to restrict your own freedom voluntarily.
But illiberal evangelicals are rarely satisfied with voluntarily restricting their own freedoms, they want to make such restrictions compulsory for everyone.
"What good does it do me," they ask, "to choose to wear my burka if I am still to be confronted by all those non-burka-clad females every time I go out in public?" Thus, they argue, their own religious freedom demands that others who do not share their beliefs must also submit to them — that all women be forced to wear a burka**** so that they are free to maintain their own fragile sensibilities undisturbed by any reminders that there are alternatives.
Once you decide that your own freedom can only be secured by compelling everybody else to live according to your choices, then you cease to be a Very Nice Person.
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* Also: Shoofly pie.
** Here is where illiberal folks like to chime in with something like, "You liberals can tolerate anything except for intolerance." This they seem to imagine is a witty rejoinder that exposes some contradiction in our thinking, as though proponents of tolerance had just proposed the existence of the barber who cuts the hair of all those, and only those, who do not cut their own hair. "Hah!" they cackle, triumphantly, "Then who cuts the barber's hair?" The proper response to such people is to crush them under a rock that is so big even God couldn't lift it.
*** And, in being free to disagree, we are free to say things like this, "We are right and you are wrong." This is, after all, what "disagree" means. You are free to say the same thing, of course. (But you'd be wrong about that, too.)
**** Re: burkas — isn't a showy, extravagant display of "modesty" kind of an oxymoron? They seem about as modest as your basic Siegfried & Roy costume. Spiritual disciplines, it seems to me, shouldn't erode the virtues they're purported to nurture.