The Parse

Parsing the stupidity

The marginalized religious left

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In the Obama-Warren “controversy,” there appears a boilerplate line of thinking on the left that characterizes the so-called “Christian right” as increasingly marginalized and outside the mainstream, primarily because of its stance on the abortion and gay marriage issues. This now-standard formula appears in a Washington Post column by E.J. Dionne Jr., in which Dionne argues that the invitation of Warren to invocate at The One’s coronation “opens more doors than it closes” because Warren is viewed as being somewhat friendly to the left’s supposed concern for “social justice,” “poverty” and “racial justice.”

“Warren understands that a new generation of evangelicals has tired of an excessively partisan approach to religion. Evangelical Christianity’s reach will be limited if the tradition is seen as little more than an extension of the politics of George Bush, Karl Rove and Sarah Palin,” Dionne writes.

Aside from the fact that Christians much more conservative than today’s religious left have done more for justice and poverty than the left has ever done, there is a rank double standard based on an erroneous premise in the notion that conservative Christians should sacrifice core values to expand their reach.

The flawed premise is that evangelicals are outside the mainstream on social issues. And yet, voters in the country’s most socially liberal state voted in November to ban gay marriage. In light of this, how exactly is opposing the imposition of homosexual values on society limiting the reach of evangelicals? Dionne and other leftists want to paint conservative Christians as a group headed for extinction precisely because of social issues, while completely ignoring what happened in California with Prop 8.

If anything, the Prop 8 vote indicates that the religious left should be rethinking its stances on social issues if it wants to avoid limiting its reach. Dionne supposes that somehow evangelicals have nurtured an “excessively partisan approach to religion” by opposing abortion and gay marriage, but the religious left has not done the same by supporting abortion and gay marriage. But since the traditional evangelical position on at least one of these matters appears to be that of the majority’s in leftwing California, where are the calls for the religious left to abandon its leftist social agenda? After all, the left will indeed be limiting its reach if its tradition is seen as little more than an extension of the politics of Barack Obama, Jeremiah Wright and MoveOn.org.

Liberals salivate at the notion that a “new generation” of evangelicals have soured on abortion and gay marriage and are more interested in combating “poverty,” AIDS and “genocide” (as though abortion is not genocide). In trying to guilt evangelicals into focusing more on these matters and less on social issues, the left is really working to destroy conservatism by undermining the strongest opposition to their amorality crusade and recruiting them for the big government agenda. Despite the fact that liberals sell themselves as caring for the downtrodden, their real goal is to make as many people as possible dependant on government. If they can get Christians on board, the number of voices against bigger government, abortion and gay marriage will shrink. Nowhere in orthodox Christianity is there a directive for Christians to support a greater government role in doing what God commanded the church to do, such as helping the poor and sick. But the new generation of Christians runs the risk of succumbing to the left’s ploy if they increasingly engage these issues with the methods of the left and abandon fighting abortion and gay zealotry.

Any calls by Warren and other Christian leaders to combat poverty, disease or other so-called “social justice issues” should be completely divorced from government expansionism and focused solely on what private churches can do to help. Further, church leaders should always include the issue of abortion in any talk of social justice and treat the matter itself as one of social justice on par with AIDS or Darfur (both of which have killed fewer people than abortion). Conservative Christians everywhere should reject the false either-or challenge the left has laid at their feet (i.e., either social justice or social morality). Failure to do so will not simply result in evangelicals’ reach being limited; it will make evangelicals nonexistent, as they will be indistinguishable from liberals.

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