Former Obama staffer Michael Wear tries to tell the Smartest People in the Room that the Democrats really do have a religion problem and that the believers they so often hold in transparent contempt have gotten the message.
As a general rule of thumb, I can expect most of the contempt for the Church’s moral teaching (except for the Pelvic issues) to come from the Right. Just as a taste of what I mean by that, here’s Breitbart comboxers heaping one of many loads of manure on Francis for having the temerity to quote St. Basil the Great and St. Francis on the warning that money is “the devil’s dung.”
Money? What does that have to do with the Church *moral* teaching? Precisely the fact that that question is so commonly asked on the Right demonstrates how deep the blindness goes. Economics, we are regularly informed by the Right, has nothing to do with morality. But in fact, economics is about virtually nothing but moral judgments made by human beings concerning how they will order their use of resources for the flourishing or destruction of the common good of human life. The fact that conservative Catholics are almost totally blind to that–and that libertarians actively battle that–is precisely my point, as it was Dale Ahlquist’s some years back.
The illusion that Catholic morality and orthodoxy is almost entirely about what you do with your groin, coupled with a few aesthetic obsessions about how the liturgy should be celebrated while the entire economic sphere is left to libertarian dogmas is why I say most of the hostility to the Church’s moral teaching comes from the Right. Jesus talks about money more than any other subject. And his guidance is at radical odds with contemporary right wing dogmas but strangely reflected by the Church and by the teaching of this hated-by-the-right pope (and his predecessors).
But that said, most of the contempt for the Church’s theological teaching (and, of course, her teaching about Pelvic Issues) comes from the Left. And it is *contempt* indeed. From lectures on my need to fall down in praise of “Piss Christ” to scolding for my failure to admire the blasphemy of “The Last Temptation of Christ” to casual insults from overgrown high school sophomores who think it the height of sophistication to invoke the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the ambient noise from Democrats (often directed toward fellow Democrats, such as Rebecca Hamilton, who is a very serious believer) is casual scorn. It’s the sort of “you’ll learn how we do things around here” insouciant arrogance that makes very clear who the losers and second class citizens are. And when the people who treat believers with this kind of contempt lose, they are so out of touch with the people they alienate they can’t even attempt to bridge the conceptual gap between themselves and an actual believer in Jesus Christ.
It’s really bizarre in some ways. People who will go out of their way–and rightly so–to try to have some empathy for somebody from a completely different cultural background and understand how they think and what they cherish, cannot be bothered to cross the street in their own neighborhood and try to comprehend why a Christian might be just as offended by a Tim Kaine trying to exploit his Faith for political gain as they are by a Trump posing with Jerry Falwell, Jr. in front of his Playboy cover shot. They can’t seem to grasp that endorsements from Philistine mockers of Jesus Christ like Neil deGrasse Tyson or Seth MacFarlane might somehow be off-putting to people who call him Lord and mourn his sorrowful Passion and celebrate his glorious Resurrection as the central fact of life, the universe, and everything. Democrats who would never think to immerse a Quran in a bottle of urine so often find themselves amazed when Christians feel disrespected at the New York Times calling them intolerant for failing to applaud how well-aimed the recent gobbet of spit in their eye was.
I am, believe me, acutely aware that many Christians present a scandalous witness to Jesus Christ. Dan Miller’s appalling mockery of Carrie Fisher’s death (for Jesus and Teh Babeez) is but the most recent in a long line of embarrassing crap Trumpified Christianity has presented the world.
But, you know, there are still a helluva lot of Christians out here who are good and decent people who live out their Faith with honor and love. And the self-regarding myth of the Noble Unbeliever Who Puts All Those Religious Hypocrites to Shame is something the intolerant cultured despisers on the Left should revisit. When Sarah Silverman’s nihilist mockeries of Christ and his followers go, not merely unchecked, but applauded, it is as much a stain on the Left as the unchecked applause of Trump’s assaults on common decency are on the Right. Not all unbelievers are noble rebukes to Christian hypocrisy. Sometimes they are just cruel jackasses. And the bulk of these mockers and cultured despisers of Jesus Christ and his devout, decent followers are, like it or not, on the Left. And his followers, not being blind and deaf, get that message loud and clear.
So I say to the Left what I say to the Right. If your goal is to put ideology above relationship with persons, then carry on. Ignore the goodness and decency that is so often present among the people you have chosen to scapegoat and reject. Paint them as the vile cartoons you want to think they are. Don’t court their vote but drive them away. But if you want to work for the common good, try treating them as you might treat the members of an alien culture or religion. Make fun of genuine hypocrisy and sin all you like. I certainly do. But consider some other approach than condescension and dripping mockery of Jesus and genuine faith in him. You might be pleasantly surprised to discover that countless believers in Jesus Christ are not morons, Pharisees, and crooks and that historic Christian orthodoxy–essentially summed up in the creed–has real intellectual, spiritual, and aesthetic vigor still.