The Left's Hatred of Religion
This HHS controversy has me thinking that our fundamental right of religious liberty has suffered a drastic deflation in value from 1791 until now. For that matter, how could it be otherwise in a nation where so many Americans despise religion?
Examine the rationalizations of commentators defending the Obama faux-compromise on the HHS mandate and you'll see what I mean.
Joan Walsh at Salon writes that she was raised Catholic, but has since turned into "a secular feminist liberal Democrat." Last Friday evening, when Obama's supporters were still clinging to their belief that his announcement of a compromise would steal all the wind out of the bishops' sails, she asked this:
Why did we spend 10 days listening to prominent Catholics, including even some liberals and Democrats, insist that the White House had overreached and trampled on "religious freedom" - in this case, the "freedom" of the Catholic hierarchy to impose rules that even most Catholics don't live by? ("Catholic tribalism and the contraceptive flap").
Ms. Walsh can't imagine that Catholic rules being defined and preached by Catholic pastors without government interference is a matter of religious liberty, whether individual Catholics choose to obey those rules or not.
Detroit Free Press columnist Brian Dickerson applied nearly identical logic on Sunday, when he scoffed about the HHS mandate affecting religious liberty at all:
[T]he religious liberties of most Michigan Catholics are scarcely implicated in the contraception controversy. What's at stake is an institutional prerogative: the Church hierarchy's authority to enforce rules practically everyone in its flock has ignored for decades. ("Brian Dickerson: Schuette still flogging birth control fight").
Of course an institutional prerogative is at stake! Could Dickerson really not recognize that a church's exercise of institutional discipline (which is a spiritual authority, not a secular one), is an essential element of religious liberty?
Neither writer betrays a particle of comprehension of what religious liberty even looks like. The problem isn't stupidity. Far from it. What they betray is lack of interest.
The progressive conceit is that human history is a continuum, clawing on vestigial fins inexorably away from abject ignorance and superstition at one end toward a science-based utopia at the other. Europe's atheists traced the pathology of religion to the neurotic imaginations of terrorized savages, and the result is that modern intellectuals routinely assign religious believers to the Neanderthal-Superstitious segment of human evolution. Today's American Smart Set expect the ultimate -- no, make that the imminent -- extinction of religion with far more certainty than they do all that cynical hooey about anthropogenic planetary destruction. But rather than go extinct, we survive, an anomaly, taking up space right there amongst all the iPhones, mice-cloning labs, and transgendered celebrities, the milestones of how far we've come.
Is it any wonder that when the Catholic bishops' balked at the HHS mandate, frustrated liberals had outbursts like this one from Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colorado: "I woke up this morning in the 21st century, not in the Middle Ages." ("Contraception controversy consumes D.C., campaign").
My point is that you can't count on people to defend religious liberty who view religion as an unwelcome survivor of the grim past, like polio, the plague, or monogamous heterosexuality. Even if these folks happen to occupy high political offices whose sworn duties include defending the Constitution, it goes against nature to promote the free exercise of something you would much rather see vanish forever. Consider how liberals intensely hate the ownership of firearms by private citizens.
I'm not suggesting that all churchgoers are as loathsome in the "secular. . . liberal Democrat" world of a Joan Walsh as firearms are. But that's only because religious organizations can still be put to a good use. The Democratic Party itself would go the way of the dinosaur if not for the reflexive support it receives from black churches and liberal Catholics. The Left doesn't always hold it against you for having a religious past. Like coming from a small town or a backward country, it might even spice up your bio: provided your present thinking strictly conforms to the opinions of right-thinking people in New York, LA, or at Reverend Wright's church.
But I don't doubt Ms. Walsh regards religion generally as something a serious person, such as herself, should aspire to escape from -- or grow out of. Ms. Walsh, for example, left Catholicism behind as a "childish thing", growing up to hate it for its "blinkered teachings in the realm of women's rights, gay rights and sexuality."
Whether it's understood as a process of evolution or maturity, the progressive current always bears you the same way, which is downstream from your faith's "blinkered" beliefs. Liberals define heroic virtue not as a total surrender to the demands of the faith, but as a petulant dissent from them. This is the only reason a statement like this from Ms. Walsh makes any sense at all:
I loved the fact that students at Catholic universities held a press conference Thursday to support the president, and that organizations like Catholic Democrats and Catholics for Choice were active and vocal in standing up to their own bishops.
And as chuffed as Ms. Walsh is about Catholic students standing up to their own bishops, you can bet she doesn't love it at all when America's Catholic bishops stand up to their own president. Questioning authority is fine in its place. But questioning the administration of Barack Obama is not its place.
TR Clancy blogs at Dearborn Underground.