So you’ve heard of the “Manhattan Declaration,” right? It’s a right-wing propaganda bomb trying to stake a claim on “Christian” morals by enshrining certain values as essentially “Christian.” These values–anti-abortion, no gay marriage–spawn debate across the country, with many sects going separate ways on these issues.
But two things occur to me about the declaration. First, I’m amused that the third tenet, the respect for religious liberty, hasn’t snapped back and poked out their eyes. There’s no debate that the values they claim in tenets one and two spring from religious practice, but they demand public, secular adherence to those beliefs. They believe gay marriage to be wrong, so they want their government to support it. But then they enshrine religious liberty as something they value. All I can say is, WHAAA!? By definition, religious liberty means the freedom to have different beliefs. And if those beliefs differ, then the practices springing from them do not deserve instant respect, but must survive and succeed in the hostile battleground of ideas and ideals.
Second, I’ve always wondered why the religious right gets along so well with the party traditionally concerned with fiscal responsibility. It’s always seemed to me that Christianity’s call for charity and good works gets in the way of American pecuniary tendencies. But it’s also always mystified me, a bit, why many of these same people put so much energy into concerns with sexual morality instead of more pressing societal concerns. Hugo Scwyzer explains:
Here’s the thing: fighting against abortion and gay rights is, in the end, cheap. It requires no particular personal sacrifice or reflection on the part of those who claim these are the top issues. Men who will never get pregnant; heterosexuals who have the privilege to marry those whom they love — they surrender nothing precious to them by fighting tooth and nail against reproductive and glbtq rights. The struggle against global poverty and the struggle to save the planet from environmnetal degradation, on the other hand, make radical claims on all of us — particularly on the affluent in the West, whose unsustainable consumption patterns are directly linked to human and animal suffering. Fighting against climate change and poverty require that the wealthy transform their lifestyles; fighting against gay rights requires nothing more than censorious and self-righteous indignation. (Hugo Scwyzer, via The Athiest Experience)
So that’s why fiscally conservative Americans get along with the morally conservative Americans — the latter bring voting power to the group without bringing new expenses (except, perhaps, the odd faith-based initative).
* Photo by Jere Keys, released under CC-Attr license.