The Rise of the Religious Left

Over the years, when discussing politics with various people, I have encountered a number of devout Catholics—and others who consider themselves very religious—who are also fervent liberal Democrats. When asking the question, ‘How do you reconcile being a Catholic with the liberal social views of the Democratic Party?’ I typically receive replies along the lines of: ‘It’s about the poor, and doing what’s right for them.’ Or, ‘God wants us to show compassion and tolerance, and to care for the most vulnerable in society. Do I favor gay marriage? No, but I don’t think we should persecute gay people either.’

This led me to conclude that such religious Democrats are really the most consistent people on the political landscape today. To be in favor of religion, and in favor of the massive welfare/entitlement state originally brought about by liberal Democrats, they are endeavoring to practice their religion with integrity.

Consider it for a moment. If God ‘tells you’ that it’s your duty to help the poor, then doesn’t it make sense to impose the force of the U.S. government on taxpayers to pay for government-sponsored charity? And if God ‘tells you’ that it’s your duty to love everyone equally, sinners and godly alike, then doesn’t it make sense to support legislation showing tolerance towards the (allegedly) sinful—that is, the homosexuals and the abortionists?

I never understood the religionists in the Republican Party who sanctioned ‘turn the other cheek’ on one hand, and a strong national defense on the other. I never understood Christian, conservative Republicans who advocated laws against same-sex unions on the one hand, and, in complete contradiction, an ethics of forgiveness and love towards those they deem sinners. Shouldn’t the sinners be left alone, or ‘helped,’ if you love them? I never did understand the religious conservatives who seemed to advocate low taxes and more capitalism, on the one side, while attending Church on Sunday where it was preached to not pursue wealth and to always take care of the poor (with, I assume, the wealth you were instructed not to pursue’).

At the same time, I always did understand the liberal Catholics (and other Christians) who preached putting all their ideals into practice. Going back to the 1970s, I understand why President Jimmy Carter, a committed born-again Christian, did everything in his power to avoid the use of military force, even if it resulted in escalating Soviet aggression and the installation of a terrorist regime in Iran. Unfortunately, this regime now poses one of the greatest threats to world peace we have ever seen.

These proponents of pacifism and socialism, on the ‘religious left,’ were the silent minority who now, it appears, have finally come politically into their own. The most left-wing President in history, by far, controls the White House and has the support of much of the Congress.

Do I agree with a word of what they have to say? Absolutely not. I don’t believe it’s the primary purpose of human beings to elevate the poor, and I don’t approve of using governmental force to lift the poor. (Not that any such thing happens with the help of government, as we can plainly see from the economic failure of socialism throughout the world.) I certainly oppose the use of pacifism against brutal and violent enemies who seek to destroy us. But, as wrong as the premises of the religious left always were, their logic was always the most consistent and the most sound, because their logic flowed directly from their premises.

In the elections of 2006 and 2008, these left-wing religionists had their day. They may again prevail in 2012, as Obama gears up to get out the vote of the religious left. I recognize that not all liberal Democrats are religious. I expect there are many more atheists and agnostics to be found in Democratic circles than in Republican ones. Yet religion now animates the Democratic Party, whether the secular types know it or not. The religious liberals are the strongest and the most dangerous of the liberals, because they prop up their policies of socialism and pacifism with spiritual righteousness and pious moral conviction. Karl Marx had nothing on these sanctimonious liberal socialists, none the least of which Obama himself.

Socialist Democrats no longer have to turn to the discredited Karl Marx to back up their socialism and pacifism. They now have someone much more influential in “red state” America: Jesus Christ. The secular liberals have no such explicit base, but if they allow the religious left to steer their Party’s course in coming months and years, they might hold power for half a century or more. Obama’s (at present) probable reelection will be a huge victory for them.

The secular liberals are inconsistent and contradictory, to be sure. They rant and rave against Republicans, their support of business, and their tax cutting, but these secular liberals are usually quite rich and don’t really have any kind of moral or spiritual base (rational or religious) of their own. Of course, what unites these secular liberals with the religious ones is that they all hate Republicans and they all want power. It’s possible that their coalition with the religious left will fall apart at some point, but I’m betting it’s going to hold for quite a long time. Nobody within the Democratic Party opposed Obama for the nomination, despite the obvious failure of his administration to improve the economy. Democrats know they have a winning formula. Now that at least half of the country depends on government welfare, subsidies or entitlements of one form or another, Obama sounds all the right themes to keep his party in power—possibly forever.

Until or unless there’s a major political movement in this country that roots itself in ethics and morality of a secular and objective nature, we’re not going to see any advocates for a strong defense and limited government in economics. The religious right can’t do it, because the ethics of Jesus Christ (as Ron Paul found out) can’t support capitalism and secular individual rights. The only solution? Something completely different from the Republicans as we know them.

My vote is for Ayn Rand’s ideas. She wrote “Atlas Shrugged” and a bunch of other great books. I read that they’re selling better than ever. It’s too late for 2012. But maybe next time.