Lieberman and the paradox of liberal tolerance

Posted: Aug 31, 2000 12:00 AM
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 with politics. 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 Jesus Christ, 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 "intolerance."
Trending Townhall Video