Not-So-Strange Bedfellows

I’m a lifelong Democrat who is now badly disillusioned with the Democratic Party. Why? Because the party has become America’s anti-Christian party, a party that is dominated not just by atheists and agnostics (the agnostics being of that species whose skepticism is the virtual equivalent of atheism), but by atheists and agnostics having an anti-religion attitude and, above all, an anti-Christianity attitude — in other words, a party dominated by secularists.

Whenever I say this, somebody reminds me that people like Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi are not atheists or agnostics. No, but they do the bidding of the secularists who, usually outside of elective office, dominate the party. Secularists are relatively small in numbers, but they provide vastly disproportionate amounts of the labor, money, and publicity/propaganda that Democratic politicians need to get elected and re-elected.

 

More importantly, they are the “mind” of the party; they provide the Democratic Party with almost all its new and up-to-date ideas. Aristotle said that the mind, though small in bulk, is the most important part of a human being; so it is with secularists and the Democratic Party. For ballot-box “muscle,” the party depends on blacks, Hispanics, labor unions, and traditional Democratic families. But just as the mind directs the body, so secularists direct the rest of the Democratic coalition. Most parts of that coalition (the African-American community, Hispanics, etc.) have very little in common with secularists, making their alliance a very striking example of the rule that “politics makes for strange bedfellows.” In this case, very strange bedfellows indeed: a weird alliance between church-going minorities and enthusiasts who wish to destroy the churches altogether.

But there is one part of the Democratic coalition that has a great spiritual and philosophical affinity with secularism, so much so that it may be called quasi-secularist. I refer to so-called “liberal” or “progressive” Christians. Mostly these are liberal Protestants, but nowadays a great many of them are Catholics. Protestants got into the liberal Christianity business long before Catholics. The former began turning liberal more than 200 years ago, with the emergence of Unitarianism in Boston and other parts of eastern Massachusetts. Catholics didn’t start moving in this direction in significant numbers until the 1960s, during and after the Second Vatican Council.

 

A “liberal Christian,” as I define the term (and as John Henry Cardinal Newman defined it, for it is from Newman that I borrow the idea), is a person who professes to be Christian yet rejects the dogmatic principle in religion. The liberal rejects Christian religious authority, whether it be the authority of popes and bishops, the Bible, or traditional creeds. The liberal “thinks for himself” when it comes to religion, accepting those portions of traditional Christianity that appeal to his/her personal judgment and rejecting those that do not appeal.

Further, liberals often “improve” Christianity by adding to it beliefs and values that older Christians — Paul, Augustine, the first seven councils, all the popes, plus Luther and Calvin — failed to include in the Christian system. However, liberals always contend that Jesus agreed with them. Therefore, their “innovations” are not really innovations; they are simply rediscoveries of something Jesus intended to say 2,000 years ago. And thus, as every liberal Christian knows (well, not every single one, but at least all the up-to-date ones), Jesus was in favor of same-sex marriage, not to mention the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Liberal Christians vary in the degree of their rejection of traditional Christian doctrine. Some, who are new to the game, reject only a few things — all miracles, for example, including the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection. Somewhat more advanced liberals reject the Trinity and the Divinity of Christ. Those who are more advanced still reject the idea of life after death. Very advanced liberals reject the existence of God.

You might wonder why a person who rejects the existence of God would bother to call himself a Christian, but some people manage to pull this off. Some even write books proving that you don’t have to believe in God to be a Christian. Usually, their rationale for this hilarious inconsistency has something to do with their great admiration for the historical person, Jesus of Nazareth — about whom, rather oddly, they claim that we know almost nothing.

 

Now, rejectionism is the very essence of liberal Christianity. But if you have rejected all, or at least almost all, of the dogmatic content of old-fashioned Christianity, where do you go next?  You can reject the moral content of old-fashioned Christianity, beginning with sexual morality. You get rid of the taboos on premarital sex, unmarried cohabitation, abortion, homosexuality, and so on. You “discover” that Jesus, being the most compassionate man who ever lived, was in favor of fornication, abortion, and homosexuality whenever refraining from these things would be a “hardship.” Jesus the Compassionate was a great foe of suffering. Even though He Himself willingly suffered death on the cross (if we are to believe those very dubious historical records, the four canonical Gospels), He doesn’t want others to undergo suffering — say, the suffering that comes from carrying to term an unwanted pregnancy, or the suffering that comes from having to abstain from homosexual acts.

When it comes to controversial questions of morality, there is close to total agreement between secularists and these liberal Christians; that’s why the latter can fairly be called quasi-secularists. And no wonder there is this agreement: for liberal Christians (who are so un-self-aware that they don’t know where their ideas come from) derive their ideas relative to sexual morality not from Jesus or the Bible or the traditions of Christianity, but from anti-Christian secularism.

We should think of today’s Democratic Party, then, as being made up of a double coalition. At the level of “mind,” there is the coalition between outright secularists and their quasi-secularist fellow travelers. And then there is the coalition between this mind of the party and its “body” — blacks, Hispanics, labor unions, etc. When the body comes to realize — as it eventually will — where the mind is leading it, the party will disintegrate.

By

David R. Carlin Jr. is a politician and sociologist who served as a Democratic majority leader of the Rhode Island Senate. His books include "Can a Catholic Be a Democrat?: How the Party I Loved Became the Enemy of My Religion" and "The Decline and Fall of the Catholic Church in America." Carlin is a current professor of sociology and philosophy at the Community College of Rhode Island at Newport.

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