Carol Platt Liebau: Straw men and prevaricators

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Straw men and prevaricators

Reading stuff (to put it kindly) like this, it's easy to understand why Americans see liberals as hostile to traditional Christianity.

Jack Hitt, whoever he is, constructs a straw man in the shape of his own misconceptions about how Republicans understand Jesus and his messages. He tries to clothe his bigotry by supposedly attacking the way the broadcast media discuss evangelical Christianity, but his piece lets the cat out of the bag at the end -- he thinks evangelical preachers are marketing Jesus as a "furious political hack." Here's more of his silliness:

Every generation produces a Jesus to suit its own purposes. How fitting that in the Age of Information our broadcasters have marketed a Jesus so narrowly defined that he resembles little more than a lobbyist loitering outside Tom DeLay's office hoping for a few minutes of the great man's time.

Where is he getting this garbage? His big "point" is that Jesus used parables to teach, and thereby left a lot of ambiguity in what He said -- that it's up us to interpret. Point taken, as far as it goes. But the problem with Hitt's argument is the way he wants to use it -- after all, if there's nothing but ambiguity, then each of us can interpret how we please and do what we want. (Look at the latitude that the act of "interpreting" the law gives to liberal judges . . . they're free just to make it up!).

What Hitt wants to ignore is that some of what Jesus said was absolutely crystal clear (check out the Sermon on the Mount). The problem with clarity, from Hitt's perspective, is that it prevents people like him from remaking Jesus in their own image.

More than that, his utter ignorance about the teachings and beliefs of the religous right is astounding -- as is the fact that the Times would print such a mindlessly bigoted piece. Check out this quote: "Ironically, mass-market Christians rarely cite or emphasize the living Jesus, the Jesus who speaks. They like their Christ dead." If Hitt had taken just a moment to listen to any of the preachers he criticizes, he'd realize that this is simply untrue.

If the left is ever going to be effective -- and to score points without lying -- its advocates will have to understand their "enemy" better than they do right now. I happened to see Norman Lear last night on "Hardball". He appeared in conjunction with some ad he's paying for, alleging that the Christian right is accusing those who don't agree with them of not being good Christians (i.e. the old "they're attacking my patriotism!" whine carried into the religious context).

How silly. Though I'm not a fundamentalist Christian myself, I have heard a lot of what people like James Dobson, Jerry Falwell and others have had to say -- and I have never heard them call anyone a "bad Christian." Nor, contrary to the claims of Norman Lear and the talking points emanating from the left, is anyone trying to run the country based on any one religious creed.

Rather, the religious right is simply trying to make sure that being religious isn't a disqualifier -- from being a judge or anything else. In its efforts to excise religion from public life, the left would have it so that any person of active faith either (1) was deemed unqualified to serve for that reason alone, or, failing that, (2) had to promise not to rely on his faith for any kind of political (as opposed to judicial) decision-making.

Those demands are unreasonable. Everyone basis his/her policies on something -- and frankly, basing them on religious principles is much less scary to me than basing them on whatever self-constructed "morality" people like Ted Kennedy and Barbara Boxer use. Of course, EVERYONE (religious or not) must act within the law -- and judges must pledge to uphold the laws on the books whether they agree with them or not. But when it comes to the tough decisions -- ones where there isn't a "law on the books" -- everyone needs a philosophical framework.

Liberals distrust faith and established religion because it gives a framework larger, more authoritative and more restrained than simply relying on the elite understanding of the trend of the moment, or "what feels good" at any particular time.

No wonder people like Jack Hitt and Norman Lear must set up straw men and resort to lies. They are upset with the way religion is embraced by the vast majority of Americans because it makes their agenda harder to realize.


Blogger jchess said...

I don't see Liberals as being hostile to Christianity.

I know them to be so, by way of proven fact and truth.

James C. Hess

8:58 AM  

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