The EFM Feature

“The era of the religious right is over,” says Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne.
Here’s his basic thesis:

But the secular period that Kennedy spoke for ended with Ronald Reagan’s election, the rise of the Moral Majority and the emergence of the Christian Coalition. If my theory is right, we will come to see this era of religious polarization as having lasted from 1980 to 2008. The era that is beginning will likely be more religious than the long post-FDR secular period. It’s hard to imagine Obama, Clinton or any other Democrat giving a speech quite as relentlessly secular as Kennedy’s Houston address. But compared with the period that is just ending, the new period will be more secular, more pluralistic and more focused on issues outside the cultural realm.

Here’s a portion that makes some sense to me:

That style reflected a spirit far too certain of itself and far too insistent on the moral depravity of its political adversaries. It had the perverse effect of narrowing the range of issues on which religious traditions would speak out and thinning our moral discourse. Precisely because I believe in a strong public role for faith, I would insist that it is a great sellout of those traditions to assert that religion has much to say about abortion and same-sex marriage but little to teach us about war and peace, social justice and the environment.

I suspect that what Dionne really means here is not just that the “religious right” should not give short shrift to these last few issues — but also that it should embrace his (liberal) views on them. No thanks. But I actually agree that too often, conservative evangelical leaders have focused their attention on a few things we oppose — abortion and same-sex marriage come to mind. As we’ve often said, those issues are important, but so are others — and as President Reagan showed, you don’t win in politics without a positive agenda.
However, his concluding paragraph is just silly:

With the United States turning its attention again to very large, post-9/11 issues — as our forebears did during the Depression, World War II and the Cold War — we will certainly be asking for God’s blessing and help. But the questions that will most engage us will be about survival and prosperity, not religion and culture.

In reality, cultural questions are questions of survival. Our nation’s founders knew that, as Governor Romney pointed out in his “Faith in America” speech. America is free and prosperous largely because our culture reinforces the things that have made us great — and if that culture slips away, we will no longer be free or prosperous.
Anyway, that’s just my $.02. Discuss!

About Charles Mitchell

EFM's resident Yankee, Charles Mitchell, works in the non-profit arena in his native Pennsylvania. He and his wife, Charissa, live near the state capital of Harrisburg with their daughter, Adeline, and are members of a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America.

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