Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

This is why Rich Lowry gets paid the big journalistic bucks

About a month ago, I did a rather turgid post aimed at demonstrating that Christianity, rather than being a witch-burning, intellectual backwater religion, has, since the early 19th Century, become this world's dominant force for freedom. If only I'd waited a month, I could have just linked to this Rich Lowry column, which makes the exact same point, only in a much more easy-to-read way:

The word "theocrat" is a rapidly emerging swearword in American politics. If someone opposes gay marriage, or supports giving sustenance to Terri Schiavo, or has any strong moral convictions that inform his policy positions, he is a "theocrat" who secretly wishes to begin burning people at the stake. How odd, then, that this week we mourn the death and celebrate the life of a man, Pope John Paul II, who had "theocratic" trappings and convictions and yet is universally regarded as a great warrior for freedom. Actually, it is not odd at all. Many of the great leaps of freedom in the West have come at the instigation of Christian believers. Their faith lends them an unbending belief in human dignity and an audacious hope in success against all odds that sweep aside excuses for inaction. When the Quakers began agitating against slavery in 18th-century England, igniting a wave of moral revulsion against it, they didn't care that slavery was important economically to the country. They believed slavery was a violation of G-d's law — enough said. When Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and his collection of (in secular terms) fellow religious fanatics began marching in the American South in the 1960s, even some pro-civil-rights liberals demurred, warning against "impatience." King responded that justice wouldn't wait. John Paul II acted in this tradition of Christian confrontation of evil in his titanic struggle against communism in Eastern Europe.
Lowry's ability to point out the Christianity can create virtuous political or social ideas helps me formulate a response to something one of my blogfriends put before me. As those of you who follow this blog know, Amy, of A Place To Talk About War, and I have been having what is (at least, to me) a very interesting and thought-provoking back and forth in the comments section of a post I did about my perception that the Left is silencing religion as a valid part of any debate. Amy very properly called me on some of my careless terminology, which gave me a chance to refine my argument. Yesterday, she came back with another great comment. In it, if I understand correctly, she is saying that non-conservatives resent the fact that religious conservatives put the Bible at their back in debates, and use it as if Christ wrote their talking points, and as if anyone who disagrees with their interpretation is immoral. Amy also pointed out that, in a pluralistic country, the Left is wary of using any single religion as a weapon in debate and opts, therefore, to exclude religion from the debate entirely. She makes, of course, two excellent points: It is deeply wrong in a pluralistic society for any side to claim that it has the inside track to a foundational book's meaning (by which I mean a book such as the Bible or the Koran), and I'll concede that it would be a disaster for American pluralism and freedom of religion, if any one foundational book -- or a single interpretation of that book -- were given dominance in this culture, in lieu of Legislation. Having said that, however, I still maintain that you cannot shut down people whose views are inspired by, or informed by, their religious beliefs. Had we done that, we would still have slavery and Jim Crow, since those who agitated against those institutions did so, not because they'd rationalized that those systems were wrong, but because their religion told them that freedom and equality are God-given rights. In other words, my problem with the Left isn't that it's challenging the ideas coming from religious people, but that it's challenging religious people's right to have ideas in the first place.