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March 15, 2013
A Tragic Divide
One of their many organizational virtues (ideological virtues, alas, they have none) is Democrats' willingness to overlook religious affiliation, provided an individual is onboard with left-wing ideology. Regrettably, that is not true on the conservative side. A fair number on the right positively encourage the idea that they are only too happy to deny votes even to the most Reaganesque of candidates, should the candidate follow the "wrong" religion.
Comments following Catholic-focused pieces at conservative websites are shockingly instructive. The vitriol resembles something straight out of a left-wing kookery.
Many conservatives, self-described Christians, spout extensive Bible quotations in referring to the Deity's feelings (of which they are, presumably, the divinely-appointed interpreters on Earth) that Catholics aren't "real" Christians and are bound straight for Hell (i.e., "will not be Saved"). Mormons, or for that matter, any other religious group adjudged unworthy of salvation by the fire-and-brimstone squad get the same treatment.
During the 2012 campaign, vituperative anti-Mormon themes about Mitt Romney abounded in conservative web-comments, some bad enough to call into question the commenters' sanity, let alone their decency. Rick Santorum, a Catholic, got his share, too. Many conservatives baldly stated their refusal to vote for either of these men, Romney in particular, because "he's not a real Christian."
Previous posts by the religiously-obsessed folks showed them to be conservatives, not trolls. It's easy to say, "It's the internet; you were spoofed." But not so fast: Four uber-conservative Protestant ministers in Detroit demonstrated that right-wing religious enmity is for-real.
The reverends nominally supported Romney on their weekly Detroit-area radio show. They also made tartly disparaging remarks about Romney's religion. What purpose did this serve? Does a man's church affiliation override his public life? Is Obama, then, more acceptable?
The definitive proof: Sean Hannity's radio show, during the2008 GOP Primaries. A self-identified Christian caller from the south gushed about how much she and her friends liked Mitt Romney. Alas for Mitt, they were all voting for Mike Huckabee because - didn't Sean agree - the overriding consideration for President should be shared religious belief. Hannity disagreed vociferously, producing many good reasons. It threw the dogmatist for a loop (she was expecting agreement), but she would not budge from her absurd "religion first" criterion.
In short, too many conservatives are obsessed with religion and blind to ideological virtue, or at least ideological acceptability, particularly in the face of a worse alternative. This is a real problem in the real world, where not every decent human being (or for that matter legitimate candidate) has religious sensibilities aligning with those of the fire-and-brimstone crowd.
Obama, (nominally) an Evangelical Christian, routinely spits in the eye of Biblical teachings. Fundamentalists don't seem to get nearly as exercised about that fact, however, as about the "unacceptable" religions to which certain Republican candidates belonged.
The 2012 election is a case in point; Obama's faults were manifest, but choosing "the lesser of two evils" didn't register with some conservatives. Regular commenters at conservative websites fulminated about Romney's unworthiness to be President because of his religion, responding to entreaties that they reconsider ("the alternative is more Obama") with even harsher religious bile.
Romney lost in no small part because "rural white voters" didn't turn out for him, for reasons not altogether clear. Religious sensibilities in those areas typically bear at least a passing resemblance to those of the online Mormon-baiting anti-Romneys. Have we been saddled with Obama for another four years because sufficient numbers of the oft-caricatured "religious right" lived down to their stereotype of religious intolerance?
Democrats deftly forge alliances between polar-opposite ideologies, like pro-life Catholics and pro-choice militant atheists, for common political goals. Conservatives, with internal differences miniscule compared to those of the unified Left, cannot manage the same.
On the contrary, conservatism is riven, not least by fire-and-brimstone religious conservatives. Too many followers of The Only True Religion As Defined By Us seem incapable of reconciling themselves to tolerating, let alone voting for, someone with different religious sensibilities than their own. The result is division and discord, victory for our enemies and, in a transcendent irony, the triumph of our enemies' virulently anti-Christian ideology.
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