Friday, November 19, 2004

Another linguistic quibble
Back in the sixties liberals, and by extension Democrats, ceded the flag and patriotism to the Republican party and rabid conservative nut cases. Of course, it's easy for forces of the status quo to claim the symbols of society and portray the forces of change as the other. What's unforgivable is that we on the left and in the Democratic Party let them get away with it. Almost two generations, we still have to establish our credentials as patriotic Americans before we can get a serious hearing on anything.

As long as that worked so well, the same conservative/Republican alliance has now spent almost three decades trying to take possession of religion, morality, Christianity, and even God. We, as always, are falling right into their trap. Ever notice how often politically-active, fundamentalist Protestants refer to themselves as simply "Christians." The implication, which we fail to challenge, is that we are, what -- Antichrist-ians? Merely pointing out the hypocrisy of their Christianity is not enough; we need a new vocabulary that will simultaneously support the religious left and deny the religious right the ownership of the vocabulary of religion and morality.

I'm not saying we need to sprinkle our language with Biblical allusions and frequent Praise the Lords. If it doesn't come natural to you, it's just insulting to try. What I am saying is that we need to refuse to use their vocabulary. The politically-active, fundamentalist religious right does not own the name Christian. When you go after bigots, do not call them Christians. Don't even call them evangelicals; they a minority even there. We are fighting a political battle; call them by a political name. We need to call Reed, Falwell, Robertson, and Dobson extremist Republicans.

We are not concerned with them because of their religious credentials or position. We are concerned with them because of their partisan, political activities. We should frame the issue to be not one of religion entering politics, but one of politics entering religion. We welcome people of faith who want to become involved in politics, but we object to political operatives who want to make certain churches an extension of the Republican party. If you are comfortable with religious language, this the point to insert "rendering unto Caesar" language. If you are more comfortable with historical language, this is the point to bring in secular founding fathers language I suggest Franklin, Jefferson, and Madison. Americans United for Separation of Church and State is a good source for talking points.

My High School debate teacher taught me that defining the question was the first step toward winning a debate. It's an obvious lesson, but it's one we lefties need to work on.

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