And God rolled His eyes II

And God rolled His eyes II

: Yesterday, Hugh Hewitt, PowerlineBlog(oftheYear) and others responded to my post below about whether religion is under attack or attacking in America (I said neither statement is true). I first want to thank these good bloggers for the respectful tone of their disagreement; it’s good to debate about a war without going to war (especially about religion). I was sorry I didn’t have the time yesterday to respond. Now I’ll try.

Start here: No one is this country is being stopped from worshipping as they please. No churches or synagogues or mosques are being shut by mob or government edict. That would indeed constitute a war against Christianity and religion; that would be illegal, unconstitutional, unAmerican, and wrong. But I don’t see that happening. And if I did, I would be fighting that with my full First Amendment fervor.

Ah, but you might say that you’re prevented from putting a creche in front of city hall or singing Christmas carols in school. But be careful, for if you’re using that as an argument of religious persecution, you end up arguing that you want city hall and the school to become a place of worship and that does raise issues. You can’t have it both ways: You can’t argue that the creche and the carol are harmless displays of culture and then argue that preventing them is religious persection that prevents worship. That doesn’t wash.

I’ll repeat that I think it is silly and argumentative to demand the right to put a creche at city hall when there are so many other places where you can put it and when there are legitimate Constitutional questions about this. But I also think it’s silly and argumentative for the other side to fight to stop it, for if we talk about celebrating the culture and diversity of this country then I say let’s start celebrating. And I am tired of this annual charade.

Next, if your argument is that there is a war against religion in this country because there are more signs of secular life and more people who reject religion — well, folks, that is their right in this country. And so, that is a problem of marketing, not Constitutionality. If you lose converts it could well be because they don’t like your message or how you deliver it. If Coke loses customers to Pepsi, Coke isn’t being persecuted; it’s facing competition. We believe in competition in America — even for minds, yes, even for souls. That is the essence of the First Amendment: No one side gets an edge up thanks to government. And enforcing that is precisely what protects the free choice of worship — for you don’t want to find government endorsing George’s church today but Hillary’s tomorrow, do you?

And I find arguments that there is a war on Christianity to be disingenuous in a nation that is overwhelmingly Christian. Here, too, you can’t have it both ways: You can’t argue on the one hand that the moral values army is sweeping the land and that’s why George won — and then argue on the other hand that you are a persecuted, downtrodden sect. You can’t play the power card and the persecution (aka paranoia) card at the same time. Doesn’t wash.

I’ll make the same argument to the other side in this alleged war: those who say that American is under attack by the religion of a moral values army. That is the point of my reporting on the FCC and the PTC: The country hasn’t suddenly been taken over by a religious invasion and it’s only the dumb FCC and media that fall for that. To this side, I’ll say that you can’t argue on the one hand that you’ve been overrun by the right and on the other hand that the election was close. Doesn’t wash.

: Hugh says: “I suggest that the issue of indifference or hostility to faith might be far more real than Jeff realizes because he’s never been in a community on the receiving end of bureaucratic venom.” Perhaps. But that is a matter of interpretation. In my town, there is a huge fight over a church wanting to build a big building but I am confident this is a battle over property value, not God.

Hugh disagrees with my take on the PTC’s complaints about religious humor on TV: “Is a joke about race a cause for concern? Or a joke about ethnicity or faith? Does the fairly consistent attempt by cultural elites to belittle and marginalize faith raise any concern for Jarvis?” Certain jokes can be a concern. But I do not think that Christianity in America and God in Heaven are so fragile they can’t take a little ribbing. I do it, too. In church. In the pulpit, even. So this is a matter of degree: I think the PTC’s complaint was ludicrous; they were paranoid. Worse, it was PC! One more time, you can’t have it both ways: You can’t on the one hand say that any joke about religion is off limits and then on the other hand argue (properly) with those who try to say that “Merry Christmas” is off limits. It’s only the flipside of the same PC language tyranny.

Then Hugh argues:

Every time an elitist condemns a person of faith as a “theocrat,” or a scientist rejects an argument against embryonic stem cell research as a “fundamentalists’ position,” the effort to expel faith from the public square advances, and not via debate, but via the sneer…. Jarvis’ jeremiad against focus on conflicts between the sectarian and the secular is itself an attempt to demote issues of faith in the culture to second-class conflicts, beneath the attention of “serious” thinkers –a back lot drama played out by hayseeds and snake handlers. How convenient, and how wrong.

Oh, heck, one more time: I see you trying to play both sides again. On the one hand, you don’t want people to argue with you: You can sneer at their secularism but they can’t sneer at your faith? Well, it might be better if they each debated rather than sneered. But I’d say that “elitist” is itself a sneering word. The point is that people disagree. But disagreement and debate are not war and persecution.

: Meanwhile, over at Powerline, Paul Mirengoff says:

I think Jarvis is missing the political dimension to the fight. This year’s election made clear what political leaders have known for some time — religious belief and degree of religious commitment are closely associated with how people vote. Thus, the extent to which people hold, and are serious about, religious beliefs has a direct bearing on who will hold political power and what our policies will be across the spectrum of key foreign policy and domestic issues. Put another way, the fact that so many Americans believe in God and take religious teachings so seriously is a major reason why our politics and policies are not like those of Europe, where religion has been marginalized. Thus, the temptation of one side to marginalize religion here is sensible and probably irresistible. So too with the urge of those on the other side to fight back.

Be careful or you’re going to marginalize me: I go to church. I vote. I just don’t vote your way. You’re arguing that the right is religious and the religious are of the right and I think that would be a big mistake.

In the end, the real problem is all about lumping: lumping people together in a nation that believes we are individuals. Each of us has the right to worship as we please and so we must allow all our fellow citizens to worship as they please. We speak and vote as we please and allow our fellow citizens to speak and vote as they please. That is what the First Amendment — and America — are all about.

: Powerline also points us to George Washington’s wonderful letter to a Jewish congregation:

…The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support….

May the children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid. May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy.

Each under his own vine and figtree.

: BrotherBlogger makes my argument better than I did here:

I think the “religious war” so frequently talked about is nothing more than headline grabbers. I don’t doubt that there are those hostile to Christian points of view in America. But it seems a far leap from that to say that these same people want Christianity to somehow disappear and are willing to destroy the First Amendment to do it.

Amen, brother.

And once again, Merry Christmas.