In a strange irony, it has come to be the case that only Democrats now speak up for giving a role to faith in governance. Stranger still, they get away with it — which prompts the question: Why?
In the accepted vocabulary of liberalism, the word “theocracy” functions as a synonym for “Silence them!” The word possesses awesome power to intimidate Republicans.
Yes, occasionally you might hear a conservative timidly voice the opinion that, as was clearly recognized in the America that existed from the founding till less than half a century ago, religion is a source of inspiration for good government.
But we have mostly learned to stop staying such things in public. The liberal media and academics have simply proven too skilled at twisting our words. They would make it appear that we advocate a Sharia state along the lines of Saudi Arabia or Iran.
Can you imagine a Republican presidential candidate inviting the members of an evangelical church to elect him and help build the Lord’s Kingdom on Earth, in which the office seeker himself will function as a self-proclaimed instrument of God? Yet earlier this month, Barack Obama told the congregation of a church in Greenville, S.C.: “We’re going to keep on praising together. I am confident that we can create a Kingdom right here on Earth.” He also said, “I want all of you to pray that I can be an instrument of God.”
These remarks occasioned no protest from the Jewish community.
If Obama were a Republican, you can be sure the top Jewish organizations would be the first to leap furiously upon him, warning that the next step will be pogroms in the streets of the Upper West Side and the sacking of Zabar’s by Cossack horsemen.
Maybe the Illinois senator was just being inspirational and poetic, you might say. Now try to picture the bedlam that would ensue, again just among our Jewish leaders, if a Republican flat out stated that his ambition, if elected, would be to translate his Christian faith into public policy.
Yet as I noted on this page before, Hillary Clinton said just that of herself in a forum this past June: “I think you can sense how we are attempting to try to inject faith into policy.”
At the same forum, televised on CNN, John Edwards said, “The hand of God today is in every step of what happens with me.” He allowed that God’s hand guides other people as well.
“We have chosen to keep our politics unilluminated by divine revelation,” intones Columbia University professor Mark Lilla in his solemnly praised new book, “The Stillborn God: Religion, Politics and the Modern West.” Hardly.
The interesting enigma is why the religiosity of Democratic rhetoric is greeted with serene acceptance by the same people who would be going berserk if Republicans said such things.
Don’t tell me it’s because Republican faith is coercive while Democratic religion is not. Clinton made her comment in the context of pushing her plan to reform health care. Both she and Edwards say their respective schemes to broaden access to medical care — to which she explicitly attaches religious significance — could include privacy-invading requirements.
Clinton envisions demanding proof of health insurance to get a job. Edwards’s plan would force you to visit your doctor regularly: “It requires that everybody be covered. It requires that everybody get preventive care.”
I would say there are two reasons for the oddly muted reactions from Jews and other liberals.
First and most obviously, whatever declarations of non-partisanship Jewish groups may make, they are resolutely wed to the Democrats. In tightly tying our community’s fortunes to the goodwill of one party, they put us in a dangerous position.
In this circumstance that we have allowed them to create, the other party has little incentive to court or serve Jewish interests. Thank God, Republicans do so anyway, mainly because the Evangelical Christian constituency insists on it.
In any event, the Jewish organizations are not going to protest messianic proclamations from Obama, Clinton or Edwards for the simple but depressing reason that those candidates are perceived as being on the correct team.
Second, everyone realizes exactly what the sincerity quotient is in the Democratic drive to woo Christians. The transparent aim is to leave conservative Catholics and evangelicals with the impression that the secularist party cares about what they, Christians, care about. Uh huh, sure it does.
Perhaps some Jewish groups, familiar with the use (or abuse) of religion for raising donations and for advocating favorite political causes, recognize the strategy and feel comfortable with it. However, they unintentionally betray their Democratic partners by not responding in the hysterical fashion that they would if the same sentiments came from a Republican.
As in the famous Sherlock Holmes story, it’s the curious case of the dog that didn’t bark.
David Klinghoffer, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, is the author of “Shattered Tablets: Why We Ignore the Ten Commandments at Our Peril” (Doubleday).