I am not a Christian, or even a religious believer, and my opinions on social issues are decidedly middle-of-the-road. So why do I find myself rooting for the "religious right"? I suppose it is because I am put off by self-righteousness, closed-mindedness, and contempt for democracy and pluralism--all of which characterize the opposition to the religious right.
[T]hose who hold traditionalist views have been shut out of the democratic process by a series of court decisions that, based on constitutional reasoning ranging from plausible to ludicrous, declared the preferred policies of the secular left the law of the land.
For the most part, the religious right has responded in good civic-minded fashion: by organizing, becoming politically active, and supporting like-minded candidates. This has required exquisite discipline and patience, since changing court-imposed policies entails first changing the courts, a process that can take decades. Even then, "conservative" judges are not about to impose conservative policies; the best the religious right can hope for is the opportunity to make its case through ordinary democratic means.
In the past three elections, the religious right has helped to elect a conservative Republican president and a bigger, and increasingly conservative, Republican Senate majority. This should make it possible to move the courts in a conservative direction. But Senate Democrats, taking their cue from liberal interest groups, have responded by subverting the democratic process, using the filibuster to impose an unprecedented supermajority requirement on the confirmation of judges.
That's what prompted Christian conservatives to organize "Justice Sunday," last month's antifilibuster rally, at a church in Kentucky. After following long-established rules for at least a quarter-century, they can hardly be faulted for objecting when their opponents answer their success by effectively changing those rules.
Curiously, while secular liberals underestimate the intellectual seriousness of the religious right, they also overestimate its uniformity and ambition. The hysterical talk about an incipient "theocracy"--as if that is what America was before 1963, when the Supreme Court banned prayer in public schools--is either utterly cynical or staggeringly naive.
Last week an article in The Nation, a left-wing weekly, described the motley collection of religious figures who gathered for Justice Sunday. A black minister stood next to a preacher with a six-degrees-of-separation connection to the Ku Klux Klan. A Catholic shared the stage with a Baptist theologian who had described Roman Catholicism as "a false church."
These folks may not be your cup of tea, but this was a highly ecumenical group, united on some issues of morality and politics but deeply divided on matters of faith. The thought that they could ever agree enough to impose a theocracy is laughable.