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Speaking Truth to Power

Being on God’s Side: An Open Letter to the Religious Right

Adherence to our principles trumps loyalty to those who simply share our religious identity. Several years ago, at Family Research Councils Values Voter Summit, Southern Baptist leader Richard Land said he’d vote for a Jewish pro-life politician who promised to raise his taxes before he’d vote in a Christian pro-choice candidate who promised to cut them. The rousing applause he received was as disturbing to many Republicans as it was to many Democrats. But Land knew how the issues should be prioritized. We should too.

Oh, and this, too:

Our allegiance to any political party should be modest, contingent, and made with a full awareness that both the Republican and Democratic parties will attempt to distance themselves from us as soon as elections are over. Both parties have always done so and will likely continue that tradition until the Eschaton. Our goal, then, should merely be to usher in the side that will slow the process of disorder, allowing us the room to maneuver to re-strengthen and fortify society’s other institutions.


  1. Because in the end, conservatives really conserve nothing if they're not willing to defend natural law as the penumbra of the Judeo-Christian God's Word.

    (You want a penumbra, I'll give you a penumbra!)


  2. SEP,

    If I may be a tad bit recalcitrant here:

    Mr. Carter writes:

    "Well done, good and faithful servant—you have faithfully fought to keep the Ten Commandments in the courthouse.” It’s more likely we’ll all be asked why we didn’t spend more time concerned about our neighbors in Darfur or fighting the global AIDS pandemic. Perhaps we should rethink our priorities and put first things first."

    I think it's a bit disingenous to place the two issues in the same context. Of course there's a substantial difference betwen charity and defending symbols – it sort of reminds me of the arguments I used to get into with Catholics who thought the Old Mass was officially suppressed and what's so important about all that hyper-symbolism anyways?

    Well, God bless him, the Pope seems to place great importance in the Mass as a cultural rallying point for the Church.

    I think an analogous case can be made for Ten Commandments in Courthouses.

    Otherwise, sodomy, incest and bestiality rule the day.

    Which hasn't happened yet – oh, but wait – I guess it has, hasn't it?

    The New Jurisprudence: "If it feels good, do it."


  3. Symbolism is extremely important to the life of cultures. But the death of a culture is small beer compared to the death of a human being.

    Of course, the two are often inextricably bound up together; it makes perfect sense to fight for important cultural symbols–as long as our fight is ordered to the good of human beings and not to a comfortable reflexive nostalgia or reactionism.

    Which, to me, seems a problem of popular conservatism.

  4. SEP,

    In fact, Mr. Carter seems to understand the importance of the Ten Commandments in the Courthouse himself –

    He writes:

    "Cultural reform is needed more urgently than political reform. As Andrew Fletcher, an 18th century Scottish patriot, once boldly proclaimed, 'If one were permitted to make all the ballads one need not care who should make the laws of a nation.' Fletcher understood that cultural influence was vastly more important than political power. We once understood this point too. It’s time to remind ourselves that, to paraphrase James Carville, 'It’s the culture, stupid.'"

    So again, red herrings and straw men aside, a culture cannot long pretend God doesn't exist before it's children start believing it.

    Within three generations of this sort of behavior, most civilizations are done for.


  5. Can you tell me what font you use, please?

  6. Jonathan Webb says

    Ditto. I only add that the formation of mind which would believe that a nation can tax its way to prosperity doesn't exist as a spontaneous event. There is a reason why pro-life citizens tend also to be economic conservatives. The economic self-destruction we're seeing in California is supported by the same individuals who voted for public funding of fetal stem cell research (a self-inflicted chastisement).

    That being said, I'll vote for the Jewish Pro-life Commie.

  7. Jonathan Webb says

    My New Year's resolution is to use better words and better spelling for the new classier ("stay classy San Diego) website. "Altogether" not "all together". Maybe "emission" not "penumbra." Sorry and thanks.

  8. Matthew Lickona says

    Do you mean for the Korrektiv header?

  9. Southern Expat says

    I can't keep track of which comment thread I should be on – I guess I posted this because I agreed with the parts I excerpted, not necessarily with the whole.

    I am pretty ambivalent on the issue of the Ten Commandments in the courthouse, being generally cynical about Western Civilization and all.

    And I don't really care for the rhetorical technique of "I don't think God would want us to focus on XYZ when we could be fighting to end LMN instead," because you can always one-up the issue at hand. Different gifts, the same spirit, that kind of thing. Maybe the Ten Commandments in the courthouse are important, but just not what most people are called to defend, I dunno.

  10. Southern Expat says

    The fonts in the header are Dominican and Lucida Blackletter.

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