Liberals Are On A Mission To Demonize Christian Conservatives
By STANLEY KURTZ
06:55 PM CDT on Saturday, May 21, 2005
Harper's Magazine's May cover stories about "The Christian Right's War On America," frightened me, although not the way Harper's meant them to. I fear these stories could mark the beginning of a systematic campaign of hatred directed at traditional Christians. I don't doubt that conservatives, Christian and otherwise, are sometimes guilty of rhetorical excess. Yet despite what we've been told, the most extreme political rhetoric of our day is being directed against traditional Christians by the left.
Harper's seems to be worried that the United States is just a few short steps away from having apostasy, blasphemy and sodomy declared capital crimes. Compare this liberal fantasy of imminent theocracy to the reality of Lawrence vs. Texas, the Supreme Court decision legalizing sodomy, and Roper vs. Simmons, the Supreme Court decision that appealed to European precedents to overturn capital punishment for juveniles.
Both of these decisions relied on the existence of a supposed national consensus on behalf of social liberalism. In conjuring up that false consensus, the court treated conservative Christians as effectively nonexistent. That is where the law is and where it is headed. It is completely unsurprising that conservative Christians have decided they're tired of being trampled on by the courts.
To cover its imperial judicial agenda, the left is now concocting nonsensical theocratic fantasies. For a very long time now, secular liberals have treated conservative Christians as the modern embodiment of evil. And now that conservative Christians are demanding redress, the left has abandoned all rhetorical restraint.
And legislative, too: The California assembly passed a bill designed to prevent politicians from using "anti-gay rhetoric" in their political campaigns. Opposition to same-sex marriage itself is considered by many to be "anti-gay." So has public opposition to same-sex marriage been banned?
As a secular American, I don't see homosexuality as sinful. I welcome the increased social tolerance for homosexuality we've seen since the 1950s. Yet it's outrageous to ban political speech by Christians who do consider homosexuality a sin.
California's battle for same-sex marriage is calling forth legislation that takes us down the path toward banning the expression of traditional Christian views, as has happened in Canada and Scandinavia. While Harper's is spinning out fantasies of a Christian theocracy, the California Legislature gives us the reality of a secular autocracy.
Whatever your view on how marriage, sexuality and parenthood ought to be related, important social consequences will follow – and have followed – from how we handle these issues. We can argue about whether same-sex marriage will strengthen or weaken the family, but the debate itself is, or ought to be, necessary and legitimate.
Yet to much of the mainstream media, the complicated question of how society should structure the relationship between sexuality and the family has been reduced to an all-or-nothing choice between bigotry and freedom.
The drive for same-sex marriage has been every bit as much of a political disaster for this country as the ill-conceived conflict over abortion. The mistake was to frame the debate as a fight against bigotry instead of as a tough decision about how to structure our most fundamental social institution. On same-sex marriage, the left not only used the courts to make an end-run around the public, but also framed the issue in a way designed to silence and stigmatize all opposition.
Now we see the results of this terrible decision. Traditional Christians are openly excoriated in the mainstream press as evil bigots. Naturally, they are fighting back. They've turned to the political process in hopes of securing for themselves a space in which to exist.
If conservative Christians try to force all Americans to pay church tithes or call for the execution of blasphemers and witches, I will oppose them. But that is not the danger we face. The real danger is that a growing campaign of hatred against traditional Christians by secular liberals will deepen an already dangerous conflict.
Let's continue our debates but change their framing. Conservative Christians cannot stop complaining of exclusion and prejudice until cultural liberals pare back their own excesses. Let's stop treating honest differences on same-sex marriage as simple bigotry. Let's stop using the courts as a way around democratic decision-making. Let's stop trying to criminalize religious expression.
And let's stop calling traditional Christians fascists. It would be nice if the folks complaining about "Justice Sunday" addressed these issues as well.
Stanley Kurtz is a research
fellow at the Hoover Institution and a contributing editor of
National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com).
You may e-mail him at comments.kurtz@