Thursday, January 27, 2005

Those Darn Christians Again

Hat tip to Darn Floor for locating this piece at Sundries Shack: The Christians are Coming! The Christians are Coming!

In response to a William Raspberry column contending that religious Americans threaten the spirit of compromise that makes for a functioning democratic government, Jimmie writes:

“Believers haven’t changed what they believe, nor have they measurably changed how they express that belief. The idea that, in the last four years, Christians of every stripe have suddenly come to think that compromise on their beliefs in the public arena is sin is certainly one theory, but not one that’s very plausible.

Here’s a better theory. People of faith have seen their own beliefs discounted, eroded by legislation, and shoved to the backwaters of public discourse and public policy. They’ve been increasingly treated as ignorant hicks for their faith and told that their personal beliefs have no place in public while watching others’ personal beliefs becoming the law of the land. The problem, in their minds, has been that they have been too willing to compromise. They’ve been willing to give ground on all sorts of issues because they believed that the entire point of compromise was fair play. Except they didn’t get compromise in return. They got derision. They got condescension. They got insults. And they’re tired of it.”

This is an under-appreciated point. “Believers” have been a predominant group in American politics since the nation’s founding. Yet lately we’ve been assaulted by repeated analysis alleging that the growing influence of religion upon our politics represents some new threat to our system of government. It's far more plausible that Christians are like any other group in American politics, and when their interests are assaulted, they're going to respond.

There ought to be a basic check such analysts must pass before having their views taken seriously – the check of history. In order to contend any new or growing threat to our government from religion, they should first be able to demonstrate how religious belief is more dominant now than it has been previously in American history. If this cannot be established (and it can’t), any analysis based on such a premise should be dismissed.


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