Jewish World Review August 30, 2000 / 29 Menachem-Av, 5760
Lieberman and the
paradox of liberal 'tolerance'
I APPLAUD Sen. Joseph Lieberman for publicly professing
his faith and the media for not freaking out over it. I
applaud neither of them for their utter failure to apply the
same openness toward conservatives of faith.
In every major paper I canvassed this morning there
appeared at least one article, sometimes two, praising
Lieberman for proclaiming his faith to "members of a
black church in Detroit." Without exception, Lieberman's
call for a restoration of faith in America's public life was
received favorably by the press. Nary a concern was
registered about the inappropriateness of mixing religion
One of the most common complaints from the left about
Christian conservatives is that they don't keep their faith
to themselves: "... it's a private matter and has no place in
the public arena, especially not the political arena." So,
does the devout Lieberman keep his religion to himself as
the left seemingly prefers? His aides would have you
think so, referring to the issue of Lieberman's religion as
"a media-made distraction." Nothing could be further
from the truth.
The media didn't make Lieberman say, "As a people, we
need to reaffirm our faith and renew the dedication of our
nation and ourselves to God and God's purposes." They
didn't fabricate his statement that he hoped that his
candidacy would "reinforce a belief that I feel as strongly
as anything else, that there must be a place for faith in
America's public life."
Lieberman even had the audacity to suggest that
Judeo-Christian principles were incorporated into this
nation's founding documents, a point I often make myself.
Note also that his allusions to religion were not
off-the-cuff, but premeditated and conspicuous. As the
Los Angeles Times observed, "(Lieberman) has placed
his religion front and center in the campaign."
One article stated that although Lieberman advocates a
major role for religion in rebuilding our nation's crumbling
moral framework, he has never before campaigned on
the issue. Well, that has certainly changed now. It's
almost as if his being selected as Gore's running mate --
in part because of his ethical, if not religious, image -- has
emboldened him to publicly profess his faith. This would
not have been possible without the media's green light.
Do you suppose the media would have greeted as
warmly a conservative's expression of faith? We needn't
speculate because we already have them on the record.
When George Bush responded during a debate that his
favorite political philosopher was the Christian Savior, the left
went bonkers. They decried Christian "intolerance" and
the dangerous fusion of politics and religion. This is
remarkable, considering that Bush invoked Christ
spontaneously -- not as part of his prepared remarks.
To its credit, the New York Times admitted that if
Lieberman's words had been spoken by a conservative
Christian they would have been received with alarm by
many Democrats, "who are wary of the political activism
of the religious right." Unfortunately, it didn't go on to
draw the obvious conclusion that there is rank hypocrisy
among the left on this issue. Even Lieberman himself has
done nothing to stand up against the demonstrable
mistreatment of Christian conservatives by his fellow
travelers, i.e., Democrats.
Which gives rise to the question: What is it about
Christian conservatives that so rattles the left? Is it their
religion or their politics? I used to think it was just
another example of intolerance toward Christians, but I'm
not so sure anymore. Al Gore, for example, can proudly
speak of being born again without any condemnation
from the left. Then again, Bill Clinton can harass the
daylights out of women without so much as a peep from
feminists, and Jesse Jackson can survive as a moral
leader after making flagrantly anti-Semitic remarks.
Assuming there is a modicum of consistency in the left's
thinking on these issues, what's the common theme? It
seems to me that the only way these things can be
reconciled is to understand that it is not the Christianity of
Christian conservatives that many on the left fear --
except to the extent it aids in their discipline and ability to
mobilize -- but their conservatism.
For all of their talk about the virtues of tolerance, too
many leftists simply cannot countenance conservatives
and conservatism. How do they justify their intolerance?
Simple: on the basis of perceived conservative
commentator. Send your comments to him by clicking here.
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© 2000, CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.