Thursday, November 15, 2007

A SUCCESSFUL OUTREACH PROGRAM. I thought at first that Eugene Volokh's complaint against Howard Dean's seemingly innocuous pro-Jew statement ("The Democratic Party believes that everybody in this room ought to be comfortable being an American Jew, not just an American; that there are no bars to heaven for anybody...") was just weird:
Now I think I understand the message Dean is trying to convey. Many American Jews (the audience here was the United Jewish Communities' general assembly) are uncomfortable with many traditionalist Christians' expressed views that only Christians can go to heaven...

Yet in fact I take it that many Democrats, who are traditionalist Christians [??? -ed.] , do believe (whether quietly or loudly) in salvation by faith alone. The Democratic Party has, to my knowledge, taken no votes on the subject, and the Party hasn't made this part of any platform...

So how then can Dean assure Jews, or anyone else, that "The Democratic Party believes ... that there are no bars to heaven for anybody"? He can assure people that he believes in this; he can surely declare his own theology even if the Democratic Party shouldn't declare one of its own. He can assure people that the Democratic Party stands for civil equality without regard to religion, or make similar secular commitments (assuming that is indeed the official position of the Democratic Party) [?????? -ed.]. But he can no more make assurances about the Democratic Party's stand on salvation through works than he can about its stand on transsubstantiation or Papal infallibility.
But after a while I came to understand the brilliance of Dean's statement, and Volokh's post helped me to see it. First of all: "traditionalist Christians"? (The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto uses the same term in discussing the address.) This may be a redstate/bluestate thing, but though I know a lot of Christians, I don't know any who identify themselves as "traditionalist." Looking around the web, I find the term used more often to describe other people (like Mel Gibson's dad).

I do find a few self-identifying TCs online. Like this group, which proclaims that "Living in a highly sexualised society takes its toll on us even as Christians" (and pitches itself to "Anyone who is dealing with any form of sexual addiction"). And a commenter at a Newt Gingrich site, who says "Bottom line for me: [Ayn] Rand was a lapsed Jew and anti-Christian, who had multiple affairs... You can imagine that is a major problem for an ordained Traditionalist Christian clergyman, like myself..." At The Conservative Voice we see a friendly review of a book that "explains how traditionalist Christians see the Culture War" -- one "in which a President of the United States, with help from a slick attorney, gets a bill passed through Congress that has federal agents remove children from their traditionalist Christian homes and families to stop the children from learning 'intolerance' that leads to 'hate crimes' and 'terrorism.'" And here's a fellow who proclaims "I think the West would be a much better place if it returned to traditionalist Christianity," and goes on a tirade about "Idealists" and "pseudo-atheists" and says "I think the West needs an Orange Revolution." (Heh.)

I realize there are a lot of Fundamentalists out there. But how many of them identify with this particular bunch? And how many of those are at all open to, much less part of, the Democratic Party?

Conservatives looking for some of that old Christian Coalition magic for 2008 will of course beat any bush in their search. But it would seem that the "traditionalist Christians" Volokh and Taranto seek to pit against the Jew-loving Dean are not as numerous as they might imagine -- and to the extent that they do exist they are, to use the charitable word, fringe.

If you're a Christian, how do you feel about being associated with these people? If you're a Jew, how do you feel about Republicans complaining that the Democratic Chairman has taken an erroneous "stand on salvation through works" on your behalf?

So: At a time in which conservatives are doing their damnedest to proclaim the widespread existence of "liberal anti-semitism," Howard Dean embraces the Jews, and Volokh and Taranto publicly complain on behalf of Christians who, for the most part, are unaware that they should be offended.

I don't think the Democrats have done much smart lately, but I can't see this as anything but a net plus.

No comments:

Post a Comment