Rich Lowry

Writing in First Things, Ross Douthat explains a problem with the theo-panic, which is that the influence of institutional religion is at a low ebb: "No prelate wields the kind of authority that Catholic bishops once enjoyed over urban voters, no denomination can claim the kind of influence that once belonged to the old WASP mainline, and the evangelical Protestantism that figures so prominently in anti-theocracy tracts is distinguished precisely by its lack of any centralized ecclesiastical government."

The truth about Christian conservatives is that they support public-policy goals infused with a certain view of morality. This isn't unusual. The greatest reform movement of the 20th century — the civil-rights movement — was explicitly Christian. Today, the opposition to torture is based on a moral view that trumps all practical considerations (the inviolable dignity of the human person). A moral sense is often behind the liberal opposition to the Iraq War and to the death penalty. No one in American politics says, "I believe this is immoral and therefore should become the policy of the United States."

Some of the anti-theocracy writers claim that what sets Christian conservatives apart is that their advocacy is explicitly religious. But most of the time it isn't. Take the high-profile issue of abortion. It doesn't take any particular religious faith to think that embryos in the womb are humans deserving protection — the key claim of abortion opponents. But their critics don't want to hear it.

For such self-professed advocates of reasoned discourse, they show an appalling tendency to want to shut down the other side with their swear word of "theocracy." They are emotional, self-righteous and close-minded. They are, in short, everything they accuse Christian conservatives of being. When the theo-panic passes, maybe a few of them will regret their hysteria.

Rich Lowry

Rich Lowry is author of Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years .
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