It is rather amusing to think Republicans believe Democrats have a religion problem. This is an election where Evangelicals betrayed their beliefs and came firmly down on the side of the guy most unlike Jesus that they could find: Donald Trump.
This has all been building for awhile and it isn’t as though we haven’t seen it coming, or warned against it: The GOP has had a religion problem since Goldwater’s defeat in 1964, an event that put the Grand Old Party on the road to control by Christian conservatives.
When David French claims in the National Review, “As long as the secular progressive elite runs the party, it will continue to struggle with Christian voters,” he is really talking about Evangelicals voters.
In fact, as long as the Republican Party remains in thrall to the Religious Right, it will continue to struggle not only with everyone who isn’t Christian – a number growing by the year – but with moderate Christians as well.
Let’s face it: the Democratic Party is not the party with the demographics problem. The GOP has let itself become the party of white Christians. Everyone else votes Democrat. Blacks vote Democrat. Jews vote Democrat. Hispanics vote Democrat. You can bet Muslims vote Democrat. So do Hindus and Buddhists.
French talks as only Republicans can talk, about imagined elites and “cultural mandarins” who don’t, in fact, exist.
The Republican Party long ago fell in love with the idea of “elites” even though it is their own party that is aligned with our society’s elites – the wealthy, CEOs, Wall Street – Donald Trump. That the Party that supports the richest cabinet in American history – white Christian men all – claims to oppose elites is hilarious.
Yet that is what French does, claiming,
“As moral debates about abortion, sexual morality, and gender identity are deemed ‘settled’ by the cultural mandarins of the Left, an increasing number of people view orthodox Christians as exactly as venal as white supremacists.”
This is patently untrue. It is true that atheists are chilly toward Evangelicals but the feeling is not at all one-sided, as French claims, nor are all Democrats atheists.
In fact, figures from 2016 show that 44 percent of Orthodox Christians lean Democrat and only 34 percent lean Republican. Almost 50 percent of Episcopals lean Democrat and only 39 percent lean Republican. Some 44 percent of Catholics lean Democrat as opposed to 37 percent who lean Republican and ELC Lutherans lean 47 percent Democrat to 43 percent Republican.
Who has the religion problem?
It was Rick Santorum who claimed mainline protestants were lost to Satan and no longer could be counted as Christians. French is confusing your average Christian moderate with the extremists of the Religious Right, as though the GOP’s own brand of Christian were the norm and speak for all.
They aren’t. And they don’t. Evangelicals voted for Trump but Evangelicals don’t define Christianity, whatever French might want to believe. They aren’t even the majority of Christians.
Only one-quarter of Americans, says Pew, identify as Evangelicals. There are almost as many “nones” (25.4 to 22.8 percent).
Based on those numbers, we could as easily build an argument that the Republican Party has a “nones” problem.
When French says, “Let’s put this bluntly. The Democrats won’t fix their ‘religion problem’ so long as their progressive base believes the Christian religion is a problem,” he first has to prove Democrats have a religion problem, and he hasn’t, because he can’t.
He is confusing the true state of affairs badly. Because somebody is one religion or another does not mean they necessarily believe on thing or another. There are many Christians, for example, who use Tarot cards or believe in reincarnation or believe in abortion rights or who in some other way deviate from the teachings of their church.
Though their religion forbids it, for example, Guttmacher Institute says 98 percent of Catholic women ages 15 to 44 who have had sex have used contraceptives.
This would be impossible if French’s either/or world actually existed. But it doesn’t. The world – gender, sexuality – and religion, are all more fluid than allowed by his thinking, yet he says we’re the ones with the problem.
French wants a monolithic morality that doesn’t exist. In fact, the Democrat Party is open to all these people, of whatever belief system. The left welcomes all. The right closes itself off to all but a few and then pretends it is not the one with the problem.
It is and has always been the case that an argument built on false premises carries no weight. French makes a classic mistake, first claiming something is true without proving it, and then building his case on that lie.
This is, as Megyn Kelly famously said, more of that “math that you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better.” The numbers, unfortunately for French, just don’t add up. The calculus is unforgiving and wishful thinking won’t make 2 + 2 = 5.
While the GOP has moved so far to the right that it’s embraced the extreme right-wing ideology of fascism, French finds it in himself to assert, ridiculously,
“In short, this is a party that’s nowhere near moving to what used to be its center.”
This is patently untrue. Nothing is more “center” than equal rights for all. Democrats, religious and non-religious, believe all have an equal voice but Republicans increasingly believe if you’re not Christian, you get no voice.
It is amusing to think that, as French insists, “The secular leftist elite will have to wander in the political wilderness a while longer before it considers a new course. For now, at least, it loves ‘abortion rights’ too much to change,” or that women’s reproductive rights can be boiled down to abortion alone.
Or that somehow, with Evangelicals betraying their avowed beliefs and firmly embracing fascism, it is the other side – the inclusive side – that has to change. And for the worse.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.