This is not a recording…or is it?
From the OpinionJournal.com, offered without comment:
Who are the intolerant extremists?
Monday, May 16, 2005 12:01 a.m. EDT
We have been following the extensive theological commentary in the press on the subject of politics and religion in the current presidential campaign. It might not otherwise have occurred to us that so many editorialists and columnists harbored so many deep, pent-up opinions on religious worship, voluntary school prayer or Christian fundamentalism.
What we have been looking for but have so far missed in this great awakening of religious writing is a short sermon on the subject of liberal fundamentalism. And so in the spirit of Samuel Johnson, who once wrote homilies for his church pastor so as not to fall asleep during Sunday services, we would like to offer a few thoughts on what has been far and away the most messianic religion in America the past two decades–liberal politics.
American liberalism has traditionally derived much of its energy from a volatile mixture of emotion and moral superiority. The liberal belief that one’s policies would on balance accomplish something indisputably good generally made opposing arguments about shortcomings, costs or unintended consequences unpersuasive. Nonetheless, politics during the presidencies of Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower was waged mainly as politics and not as a kind of religious political crusade. Somehow that changed during the Kennedy presidency.
Mr. Kennedy used the force of his personality to infuse his supporters with a sense of transcendent mission–the New Frontier. The emotions this movement inspired coincided with the one deeply moral political phenomenon that postwar America has experienced–Martin Luther King’s civil-rights movement. The Rev. King’s multiracial civil-rights marches and their role in overturning de jure and de facto segregation in the U.S. were a political and moral achievement.
In retrospect, it’s clear that the moral clarity of the early civil-rights movement was a political epiphany for many white liberals. Some have since returned to traditional, private lives; others have become neoconservatives. But many active liberals carried along their newly found moral certitude and quasi-religious fervor into nearly every major public-policy issue that has come along in the past 15 years. The result has been liberal fundamentalism.
The Vietnam anti-war movement, the environmental movement, the disarmament and nuclear-freeze movements, the anti-nuclear-power movement, consumerism, the Third World movement, the limits-to-growth movement. These have been the really active faiths in contemporary America. Their adherents attended the anti-war march on Washington in 1970, locking arms and once again singing “We Shall Overcome.” They characterized the leader of their own country at the time as demonic. More recently, they have held vigils outside nuclear power plants, singing and holding lighted candles, while their lawyers filed injunctions in friendly courtrooms. The Sierra Club and other environmental groups transformed “the wilderness” into a vast, pantheistic shrine, which they and fellow believers must defend against the depredations of conservative developers. America’s Roman Catholic bishops denounced nuclear war and became revered figures in the nuclear-freeze movement (but when they denounce abortion, they are reviled).
Not surprisingly, this evangelical liberalism produced a response. Conservative groups–both secular and religious–were created, and they quite obviously make the political success of their adversaries more difficult. Liberals don’t like that. So now, suddenly, we find all these politicians and columnists who are afraid someone might want to impose a particular point of view on them. “There is a long and unhappy history of intolerance which still flourishes at the extremist fringe of American politics,” says Ted Kennedy, a fundamentalist liberal preacher from eastern Massachusetts. Indeed there is. It greeted U.S. soldiers returning to California from Vietnam with spit. It has characterized people who work in the auto, drug and nuclear-power businesses as criminally amoral. It turned the investigations of Anne Gorsuch, Les Lenkowsky and Ed Meese into inquisitions.
If some liberals are now afraid that certain Christian fundamentalists will reintroduce new forms of intolerance and excessive religious zeal into American political life, perhaps we should concede the possibility that they know what they’re talking about. But they might also meditate on the current election and why there has been an apparent rightward shift in political sentiment in the U.S. It could be that a great many voters have taken a good look at the fundamentalists on the religious right and the fundamentalists on the political left and made up their own minds about which pose the greater threat to their own private and public values.
Sounds familiar? Yup, I posted a similar thing the other day. But I forgot this part, from OpinionJournal:
(Editor’s note: The editorial appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Sept. 13, 1984.)
The more things change…