Friday, December 14, 2007

Holier Than They

by Judith Warner / New York Times

For years, the left – and moderates – permitted the right to frame itself as the sole custodian of “family values” in the United States. It was only when vast numbers of American families woke up to the fact that they were not being valued at all – that, in fact, they were being fleeced – that non-conservatives shook themselves into a sentient state and began to talk about replacing empty words with substantive promises about health care, child care and college aid.

Now a similar thing is happening with religion. We are, we’ve repeatedly been told in the past week, in the grip of a faith war. There has been a lot of interesting discussion of Mormonism and Evangelical Protestantism, about Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee outdoing themselves to appeal to Christian conservatives, and about John McCain’s belief in a “Christian nation.” There has been dismay about a political moment in which it seems a candidate must pass a religious litmus test to gain national viability. There have been comparisons to John F. Kennedy, talk of the Founding Fathers, of the separation of church and state, and of how the Puritans’ rather intolerant vision of religious freedom continues to trickle down to our day.

But one line of questioning, it seems to me, is missing. One point of view is inexpressible, taboo. I am not referring to atheism – the one belief system that clearly had no place in the vision of America Romney painted in his much-anticipated speech on faith last week. Rather, I’m thinking of the now entirely muted issue of whether the basic ethical foundations of Romney, Huckabee et al’s political views truly are “Christian” – in the good-neighborly sense of the word.

More after the click ...

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