Thursday, September 15, 2005

the scold-America right

La Shawn Barber writes that America is in deep trouble and Dean disagrees. On the factual issues, I tend to agree with Dean, but he goes overboard in suggesting that the religious right is hypocritical and that it hates America. I'll respond to those two points here.

No, it's not a wee bit hypocritical to rail against both single motherhood and against abortion. No more than it's hypocritical to rail against both begging for drug money and stealing it. Yes, begging lets you avoid stealing but that doesn't make begging OK.

The analogy can be taken further. Notice I said "begging for drug money". The problem isn't really the begging, it's drugs. If you beg because you are hungry, that's OK. If a woman is a single mother because she was raped or because she made a mistake that she now regrets (and if marrying the father is genuinely impossible or a bad idea) then these heartless conservatives will be all over each other trying to help the woman out. I'm not speculating; I've seen it.

But that doesn't mean that religious people aren't allowed to warn other women that taking this risk is a mistake. And it doesn't mean that they can't criticize women who have four different children with four different fathers and raise them all in poverty, while expecting others to bear the cost of their own irresponsible behavior. And it doesn't mean that they can't tell the man and woman that they have a responsibility to get married and raise the child that they created. Or is it heartless to expect people to do right by their own children?

People like this don't hate America. Or do you think they hate their own children? Because they say nothing about America as a whole that don't say about their own children. I've seen it: a broken-hearted mother weeping that her daughter was suffering because she had abandoned God. Oh, if only the girl would come back to God.

Whether you agree with it or not, it is simply ridiculous to call it hatred. These religious right-wingers aren't rooting for the other side like the left is. They weren't cheering when they said America deserved 9/11, they were weeping. And they didn't excuse the terrorists, or call them freedom fighters. And they don't cheer every time there is bad news from Iraq.

And they didn't make this stuff up either. If you read the Old Testament, you will see over and over how it says that God punished a nation for becoming sinful. If someone believes the Bible is true, then it doesn't take a great stretch to think that the same rules apply today as they did back then. If someone really believes that God will bless godly nations and punish ungodly, then that person is giving what they believe is good advice when they rail against a nation's ungodliness. They are trying to get the nation to do what will make the nation stronger. That means they hate the nation?

You are working a bit too hard to find symmetry here Dean. They scold America, they don't hate it. In fact, they scold it becaue they love it, just like their own children.

Every American has things about America that he doesn't approve of. Some Americans don't like the nanny state. Some Americans don't like the fact that we don't have universal healthcare. Some Americans don't like the way we are so apologetic about defending ourselves. Some Americans don't like the way America bullies the rest of the world. Some Americans don't like sexual license. Some Americans don't like the religious people that object to sexual license.

And every one of these groups can and has made the case that the thing or group that they oppose has done great harm to America. Yes, the nanny state, the lack of universal medical care, the too-cautious self defense, the over-aggressive self defense, the sexual license, and the objections to sexual license have all done great harm and caused great suffering in this country.

Picking out one of these groups and saying that they hate America is not reasonable. To find out if someone hates America, you need better evidence than just the evidence that they blame America for some of America's problems. You need to show that they blame America for everyone's problems, that they always seem to side with America's enemies, that they like to interfere with projects that will make America stronger and more self-sufficient, that they always seem to want to hinder America's self defense and reduce America's wealth. That description fits the American Left very well. It does not fit America's religious conservatives at all.

UPDATE: Rusty Shackleford at the Jawa Report thinks I was endorsing the argument that God rewards and punishes nations today based on how he treated Israel in the Old Testament. I can understand how he gets that idea, but that is not what I meant. I only wanted to point out that there is an argument behind this position and that it isn't just made up on the spur of the moment to give religious conservatives an excuse to say mean things about America.

By contrast, a lot of the "principles" that the Left appeals to when the criticize America are clearly invented for that very purpose because they only apply the principle when it can be used to browbeat America. When the principle would allow them to browbeat other countries, they aren't interested.

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