Monday, February 19, 2007

The Silence of the Dems

Click the link to read a Times piece about Democrats closing the purported "religion gap." It's an interesting bit, especially for those who accept uncritically the periodic Republican claim to be America's "Party of God," protecting us from godless secular humanists like Jimmy Carter.

Yes, we know all about John Edwards' naughty staffers -- but the truth is that the Dems have always been a pretty religious bunch. They just don't talk about itas much as the GOP.

Al Gore, Gary Hart and Jerry Brown all studied for ministry. Carter teaches Sunday School. The traditional base of Democratic support in the North was massively Roman Catholic, at least until the Reagan revolution. Some of that support remains: Nancy Pelosi is a weekly Massgoer, and sent her kids to parochial school. Of the Bennett Brothers -- Bob and Bill -- it's the Republican who has strayed from the party of his upbringing, to choose a life of moralizing and million-dollar poker losses. Oh, and of course there are the Revs. King, Coffin, Berrigan and (we may as well admit the facts) Jackson and Sharpton.

But they don't talk about this much. In recent years, they have barely talked about it at all -- John Kerry is a reasonably devout Catholic, but could barely be forced to say so in the '04 campaign. (He did, on a couple of occasions, give long and articulate testmimony as to why he wouldn't testify to his faith. Classic Kerry). Instead, Dems of the present generation have tried to keep religious faith -- including their own -- out of the public square. They have sat by, silently, while Reagan talked about God but never went to church. They have been mute while Bush I apealed to his own (Episcopal) bishop for a ruling that Iraq I was a "just war," and when that was not forthcoming, ran off to Billy "Even Vietnam was Just" Graham. They stayed mum when Bush II -- already famous for his love of executing the disabled -- offered sermons instread of policies, and when his henchman Novak appealed to the Pope for a "just war" ruling on Iraq II, which was also denied.

Worst of all, they have spoken the language of politics and prudence when faced with policies designed to aid the rich, crush the poor, despoil the environment, and wage an unjust war so brutally and incompetently that it strengthens our enemies and drives away any decent friends we ever had. To this, they have talked politics when they should have talked morality, and justice, and the Gospel. They should have spoken not only of their convictions, but of the place from which those convictions spring -- the Magnificat, the God who "lifts up the lowly" and protects the poor.

The silence of the Dems has helped to comfort the rich and oppress the poor, and has brought us the present Middle Eastern bloodbath. It has been a disaster, politically, theologically and morally. Thank God it is beginning to end.

And yes, the Democrats have also been the party, of the two big ones, most hospitable to those of little faith, or none at all. Perhaps too much so, in the specific sense that the silence of the faithful has allowed the faithless to feel that they were the ones in charge. But doesn't Scripture urge us to welcome the stranger? Of course it does. There is much to be said for being a big tent, a party in which those whose reasons differ may join together in the quest for civil justice. The presence of a few "cultured despisers" in the ranks, while embarrassing today, is no great shame. The shame has been the silence of those who believe.

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