Talk2action, the progressive activism site, is taking Barak Obama to task for his wise words on the relationship between faith and politics. In a post they’ve filed under Demonizing Secularism, they accuse Obama, and the evangelical left, of buying into a construct (they call it a “frame”) created by the (evil) religious right, that is, that there is a culture war between secular humanists and Christianity, that there is a secularist plot to de-religionize culture.
They go on to deny Jim Wallis’ contention, in his book God’s Politics : Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It, that there are two groups of fundamentalists at work in our society – religious fundies and secular fundamentalists (that’s right, get used to that “oxymoron”, because fundamentalism, by definition, does not have to be religious – it just means those who appeal to some “fundamental” set of guiding principles, like, for instance, separation of church and state). Liberals hate the term “secular fundamentalist,” and this article shows them running around denying any such thing could exist, while the rest of us look on in amazement at such blindness.
Here’s what Wallis’ book said (remember, he’s evangelical left):
We contend today with both religious and secular fundamentalists, neither of whom must have their way. One group would impose the doctrines of a political theocracy on their fellow citizens, while the other would deprive the public square of needed moral and spiritual values often shaped by faith.
To which the blind or willingly ignorant lefty blogger writes:
OK, so who are these “secular fundamentalists” whose “way” is equivalent to the theocratic religious right and must be thwarted? You gotta think that there must be some pretty important people and powerful organizations involved. Right?
The talk2action author goes on to say that Wallis’ book, while mentioning organizations like the ACLU, Americans for Separation of Church and State, and others (he forgot to mention liberal college professors and the leftist judiciary), does nothing to substantiate the secularist agenda. He also asks, what institutions are out there pursuing this alleged secularist agenda? This line of arguing has merit, but I’d say that the organizations mentioned are very active in opposing Christian values in the name of “separation of church and state,” among other arguments they put forth.
Again, while this accusation has some merit, I agree with Wallis (dang, maybe I am becoming an evangelical leftist!) in saying that the secularist “threat” to religious liberty is real – but not because I feel like I am going to lose my right to worship on Sundays, but because any value they don’t like, such as chastity or the normality of heterosexuality, or the evil of taking lives through abortion, they deem as “religious” and therefore somehow not allowed in the public arena.
But as Obama astutely said, as long as my arguments in the public space are not religious arguments, but rather, based on reason and common ethics, then it matters not if my motivation is because some old book like the Humanist Manifesto or the Koran serve as my motivation.
Talk2action goes further into denial, and shows their true lack of desire to move towards a middle ground by accusing the evangelical left of buying into the religious right’s framework. They go on to choose the part of Obama’s speech that they liked (criticizing the right), while calling his criticism of the left a “straw man.”
Anyway, kudos to you Obama for sticking your neck out for the reasonable middle ground. And don’t worry too much about the secular fundies on the left – they will continue to lose ground as people realize that their fanaticism is bad for the country, just like that of the far right. The middle right is a fine place to be.